The president of the union that represents the county's professional firefighters is calling local volunteer fire company leaders "childish" and "jealous" after they made accusations about misleading fundraising practices.
Michael Day, president of the Baltimore County Professional Fire Fighters, called volunteer fire company leaders “childish” and insisted that the union has supervisors in place to ensure telemarketers don’t deviate from the provided script.
Volunteer firefighters alleged that a county career firefighter union has on multiple occasions misrepresented itself to fund-raise for its charity by insinuating donations would instead go to local volunteer companies.
“It’s a jealousy factor with the volunteers trying to point and throw stones in the direction of the careers [firefighters],” said Day, a Perry Hall resident.
The issue centers on a year-round fundraising drive conducted by the union for which telemarketers call homes seeking donations for various charitable causes.
Day said the most prevalent outreach comes in the form of new smoke detectors for residents.
Chuck Bollinger, president of the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association, said this has been an ongoing issue for more than a year.
“What I’ve tried to get through to him is we only find out about the ones that call us and say ‘Hey should we give to this organization? Is it going to go to you?’ What we don’t know about is all the [donors] there are that give to this organization thinking [their money] goes to us when it doesn’t,” Bollinger said.
Bollinger said he has spoken with Day’s second in command, Michael Crosby, “three or four times” about this issue in the last year. Crosby is reportedly in charge of staffing or overseeing the telemarketers.
“We’re all out there to protect lives and property,” Bollinger said. “I would hope that we can move beyond this. I believe we took the step of doing this press release because we weren’t getting a suitable or complete response from them.
They would tell us that they would warn somebody the first time and fire that person the second time.”
In its news release, the volunteer firefighter association claims residents are receiving calls from telemarketers who claim “if there is a fire at your home, your volunteer fire company will not come to help.”
“That’s simply not true,” Marci Catlett, Vice President of the Owings Mills Volunteer Fire Company, said in the release.
Bollinger said the phone call was reported about three months ago.
“That phone call didn’t happen," Day said. "Our folks don’t deviate from script and say that they’re volunteer firefighters. They never said if your house catches fire because you don’t contribute that we’re not coming. We’ve never done anything like that. These guys are jealous that the career guys have more and are getting more than they are. It’s childish, sandlot, baloney.”
The system the union uses “randomly,” according to Day, records phone conversations, although it will soon track all conversations. Additionally, telemarketers are given one warning if they ever deviate from the script before getting fired, Day said.
“Two complaints on you and you’re gone. We have a high regard from the public and we want to keep it that way,” Day said.
The dust has begun to settle since Monday’s conflict and Bollinger has now shifted the focus to informing potential donors that their local volunteer fire companies do not make phone calls solicitations.
“If we keep that as the perspective, I don’t think [Day] has anything to complain about what we’re saying,” Bollinger said.
Volunteers use mailers and go door-to-door to collect donations.
Bollinger admitted the “jealously” label was likely attached to him by Day as a result of a disagreement the two had outside of the county Public Safety building Monday.
“He said some things about the volunteers do this, the volunteers do that, and I came back with a somewhat knee-jerk reaction,” Bollinger said, not wanting to get into the details about the conversation.
“I don’t consider myself the best debater in the world and I’m not always politically correct,” Bollinger said. “I’m sometimes brutally honest. He took it as jealously, where I see it as absolute truth.”