Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers had another rocky conversation with City Council this week about his department's recruitment of paramedics to staff city medic units. Mayor Nutter this year budgeted $3.9 million more to boost paramedic hiring as of July 1. City Council President Anna Verna told Ayers during budget testimony Wednesday the she remains "very, very disturbed" by the pace of hiring to deal with long-running staff shortages. Councilman Frank Rizzo touched off the dust-up with Ayers, accusing the department of "dragging our feet" on hiring.
Ayers, who already had outstanding requests for information from Council and new requests added Wednesday, responded to Rizzo with a letter later in the day. In the letter, Ayers told Rizzo that any questions about the Fire Department had to go to the mayor's director of legislative affairs. Copies of the letter were sent to Nutter and his deputy mayor for public safety.
Rizzo today called that a disappointment. "For him to not be able to speak about the issues that affect the department he runs and the citizens that I represent is a sad situation," Rizzo said. "It surprises me. I've been in this business for a while now. This is a first."
Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver responded by saying the letter represented no change in how information was being given to Council. "Our personnel office continues to work with the Fire Department on its staffing challenges."