Did an action taken by the City’s public safety director, Sam Simon, nearly leave the Fire Department without some necessary firefighting equipment? It is a question worth asking, but only if one is willing to accept the truth as an answer.
Five years ago, two St. Louis firefighters died tragically. Their widows filed suit against the manufacturer and distributor of some of the Department’s equipment. In the course of the first trial, testimony suggested that equipment might be defective. Both widows are convinced the equipment contributed to the deaths of their husbands.
Armed with that information, Simon wrote to the distributor asking for a $1.2 million refund. The distributor responded by offering to remove the equipment, but without refunding any cash. Simon declined. At no point did Simon ever order the equipment removed.
That’s the simple chronology that "supports" the baseless assertion by some partisans that Simon’s actions were improper. And that assertion, of course, inflames critics of Chief Sherman George, who see his hand behind charges made against his boss.
Meanwhile, the second trial is underway, and the equipment remains on the fire trucks. The City’s lawyers continue to negotiate with both the manufacturer and the distributor. Partisans and critics alike continue to bicker, sometimes egged on by bad reporting.
The City will put a bond issue on the February ballot to fund the purchase of new equipment, which will settle only the simplest aspect of the Fire Department’s problem.