Verona Fire Chief to retire months after calls for his resignation

VERONA (WKOW) — The past year has been a tumultuous one for the Verona Fire Department, but Chief Joseph Giver said, in the past several months, his department’s come a long way, making it possible for him to leave.

Tuesday night, at Verona’s City Council meeting, Giver announced his plans to retire.

“I got into this job to help people,” he said. “I didn’t have any aspirations of being a chief it just happened.”

After eight years as fire chief in Verona, 24 total years of chief experience and 41 years of fire service, Giver is turning in his badge on January 1. Because of accrued vacation time he’ll be on leave for much of that time, making his unofficial last day September 27.

“I hope we’ve gotten things done that we needed to do and I hope I’m leaving everybody in a good place,” he said.

Giver said he was considering retiring for a few years but when the firefighter’s union, Local 311, came forward with allegations of misconduct, he said those plans changed.

In November, Local 311 called for Chief Giver and Assistant Chief Don Catenacci to resign amid complaints their department was a hostile workplace due to “gross mismanagement.”

Secretary and treasurer for the union Ted Higgins helped lead the charge.

“We needed new leadership at the top to take the Verona Fire Department in a better direction,” he said.

The city responded by contracting an outside consulting firm, the Riseling Group, to look into the situation at the fire department. When they made theirreport, the city developed an improvement plan. Catenacci resigned in December but Giver stayed on to implement that plan.

“When the union came up with their allegations I decided I was not going to leave and look like I was guilty of something,” Giver said.

Higgins said the union planned to file charges with the Police and Fire Commission but ultimately chose to wait for Giver to leave on his own accord.

“We thought this was going to be the easiest way,” Higgins said. “It was going to be easiest on the firefighters, easiest on the fire department, city council, the citizens of Verona not to have to go through the messy process of removing a fire chief.”

Giver maintains he didn’t do anything wrong in his time as fire chief but he said implementing the city’s improvement plan did lead to positive changes within the department.

“Anytime you go through something like that it strengthens your resolve and helps you to get things done,” he said.

Now months since the allegations, Giver said he’s confident he’s leaving the department in a good place.

“The next chief I hope will come in, pick it up where we’re leaving it off and continue moving the department forward,” he said.

Verona’s Police and Fire Commission is tasked with finding Giver’s replacement. According to the chair, they are meeting in the next week to search for and interview potential candidates for the next chief.

Higgins asks that Local 311 be a part of that search effort.

More at WKOW 27 News

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