LeDuff: Getting to the bottom of Don Austin's resignation - New York News

LeDuff: Getting to the bottom of Don Austin's resignation

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Fox 2 was first to tell you about fire commissioner Don Austin's plans to step down.

As Charlie LeDuff shows us, it's a move that comes after a controversial tenure running a department plagued by cuts in fire fighters, failing equipment and aging fire houses.

VIDEO: Click on the video player above to watch LeDuff's report, or read it below
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Buried in this week's news was the story of yet another Bing appointee out. This time it's fire commissioner Don Austin after two and a half years.

Let's take a look back at his stewardship of the fire department. It all started with a wink and the gun.

AUSTIN: We're going to make it better. I promise you.

It only got worse. His ideas weren't very good.

AUSTIN: I'm talking about sometime let it burn.

You can now pay to become a Detroit firefighter for a day. Seriously! You can help pull hose!

His excuses weren't very good either.

A little girl died in a house fire and the department sent a rig that didn't pump water and didn't have ladders. This is what we were told.

AUSTIN: I believe to the bottom of my heart everything worked as it should.

His command staff was surly.

LEDUFF TO WHEELER: We're spending $60 million on a new public safety headquarters and the houses we visited today should be condemned. How do you respond to that?

WHEELER: You're responsible for telling the truth. Why don't you tell the truth?

LEDUFF TO WHEELER: Let me get that.

His command staff was petty. Paramedic Jeff Gaglio calling in sick today, sick to his stomach after being punished for giving away city-owned property.

GAGLIO: Yesterday I got notified that I will be brought up on EMS departmental charges.

LEDUFF TO GAGLIO: What, what do you mean?

GAGLIO: I'm being punished. I'm being punished for giving the man a blanket.

The public wasn't given the truth.

Well it's official, Detroit. Your fire department is lying to you. Because Fox 2 has obtained this internal memo which says fire department dispatchers will no longer tell 911 operators that there are no ambulances available.

MCNAMARA: We have a new saying, shamefully, because the fire department and the city put us in this position that 'When seconds count we're only minutes away.'

And when the fiscal times got tough he was no where to be found.

Whoa, whoa, whoa - hold on.

There's the fire commissioner; that's his arm! He saw us and ran away!

You know, I can't help remember what the fire commissioner told us all last summer when they announced these cutbacks.

AUSTIN: I go to bed every night praying that I don't wake up to a disaster.

Thanks for your service, Mr. Fire Commissioner.

Next!

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