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Firefighter apologizes to Richardson; promotion approved

A promotion for the head of Charlottesville’s firefighter association was approved earlier this week.

According to a joint statement Thursday from City Manager Tarron Richardson, the Charlottesville Fire Department and the Charlottesville Professional Firefighters Association, Richardson on Tuesday approved Greg Wright’s promotion to captain, effective retroactively to the original date of promotion of May 30, after Wright agreed to take a cultural diversity course.

The statement comes after The Daily Progress published an article on June 24 about the lack of approval by Richardson of Wright’s promotion after he was initially sworn in as a captain on May 29. City officials previously had declined to comment on the issue, citing personnel reasons.

Wright has publicly battled Richardson over funding issues. In an email in March, Wright called Richardson “willfully ignorant” with a “complete lack of a basic understanding” that “cannot be tolerated” as the budget process moves forward. Richardson said Wright had “limited scope of knowledge” on budgetary issues and that Wright’s “limited work experience as a supervisor will never be a match to any of my qualifications or credentials.”

According to Thursday’s statement, Wright, Richardson and recently installed Fire Chief Emily Pelliccia met Tuesday to follow up on budget discussions and staffing needs.

At the meeting, the statement said, Wright apologized for saying that Richardson was “willfully ignorant” and Richardson accepted his apology and “explained why he responded in such a heated manner to his email, which Dr. Richardson felt was a racist comment.”

Wright’s promotion was delayed, the statement says, because Richardson asked former Fire Chief Andrew Baxter to have Wright take a cultural diversity course in March, “which never happened.”

City spokesman Brian Wheeler told The Progress in June that, “All promotions of city employees involve approvals by the city manager,” and that the city would provide no further comment on Wright’s promotion because it is a personnel manner.

Earlier this year, firefighters lobbied the city to approve a departmental request for $1.3 million to fund 12 new firefighters to staff ambulances for a department they say is stretched thin. Richardson had called the staffing problem “an issue I inherited” and said the fire chief needs to better allocate staff. The funding was never included in proposed or approved fiscal year 2021 budgets.

The statement says that CFD and Richardson “pledged to work in collaboration” on a staffing plan to help resolve issues previously identified, and will include “a gradual decrease in overtime from year-to-year, as well as an increase in additional advanced life support capabilities and emergency medical transport services.”


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