November 23rd, 2009 5:33 pm | by NIGEL JAQUISS News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

OSHA Complaint Filed Against Commissioner Randy Leonard

randy leonard

Oregon-OSHA received a complaint after the Nov. 10 fire at Marysville K-8 school about the actions by City Commissioner Randy Leonard, who has been very aggressive about going after businesses for fire code violations.

At issue in the Marysville fire, according to people familiar with the matter, is that during the blaze, Leonard — a former firefighter and the city's current fire commissioner — donned firefighter's gear and climbed onto the roof of the burning school in Southeast Portland.

Those actions caused concern on the scene of the three-alarm fire because there was a danger of roof collapse; Leonard wasn't under command of the officials directing firefighters; and, Leonard's training on key equipment — like the self-contained breathing apparatus — has lapsed.

The response from Portland Fire & Rescue indicates Leonard's actions violated Fire Bureau guidelines.
"This was an unexpected occurrence and we have made plans to prevent anything like this from happening again," [emphasis his] wrote Jeff Bancroft, Portland Fire & Rescue's Chief Safety Officer in a Nov. 17 letter to OHSA. "As you know Commissioner Leonard is a retired Portland Fire Lieutenant with 25 years of experience. He was wearing a firefighter turnout coat, turnout pants, helmet and SCBA [self-contained breathing apparatus]. However, it has been some years since he was trained in the usage of this equipment. Clearly, Portland Fire & Rescue does not condone allowing former employee to 'suit up' and enter any hazard areas. We have established guidelines and policies that prohibit such occurrences.

Bancroft told OHSA the Fire Bureau will give the 57-year-old Leonard, who retired from the bureau in 2002, a four-hour refresher course.

"Additionally, any time the Commissioner is on the fireground, he will be paired up with the Incident Safety Officer. When the Commissioner is on scene, he will be in an observation or advisory role and at no time will he be doing any 'hands on' fire fighting," Bancroft wrote.

Read Bancroft's entire response Portland Fire Bureau here [PDF] to the OSHA complaint.

OSHA safety enforcement manager Eduardo Contreras accepted that response.

"You indicated that the complaint has been investigated and necessary actions has been taken to correct any hazards identified," Contreras wrote in a Nov. 23 letter. "At this time no further action is planned."

(Although OSHA made Portland Fire & Rescue's response and OSHA's response to that response public at WW's request, OSHA has not yet produced the original complaint. We will post that when we get it).UPDATED with the anonymously filed complaint [PDF].

Before winning election to City Council in 2002, Leonard served as a firefighter for 25 years, retiring as a lieutenant. Leonard wasn't immediately available for comment on the OSHA complaint. We'll also update the post when he does return our message.

UPDATED with a response from Leonard's office:

"We have no qualms with the Fire Bureau's response to this incident and Randy intends to take the appropriate training," Leonard's Chief of Staff Ty Kovatch told WW.
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