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Dayton Mayor to Apologize for Comments but Says Firefighters are Politically Motivated

Dayton Mayor Ken Rankle was the topic of a heated meeting of the Belevue-Dayton Fire Board last week in which he was accused of using profane language and insults towards members of the department.

In an interview with The River City News on Monday, Rankle did not deny what he was accused of saying.

"He said all the guys at the firehouse were sons of bitches and assholes," claimed a volunteer at the fire department in a letter read to the board. Other members of the department spoke of a troubled work environment.

(SEE PREVIOUSLY: Firefighters Accuse Mayor of Insults, Bullying)

The day before the cities' joint Memorial Day Parade, Rankle joined other volunteers in cleaning and preparing the streets. When a volunteer from the fire department showed up with a pick-up instead of a fire truck, Rankle expressed frustration. The volunteer said the mayor called a fire captain "a cocksucker" and accused him of "playing games". Rankle said the fire truck better serves the purpose of cleaning the streets. He has volunteered for the cleaning and preparation duties for twelve years.

"It was not meant as a personal attack. It was a poor judgment of words. I realize as mayor I should have made a better choice of words," Rankle said. "I'm held to a higher standard. I should choose my words more carefully."

While Rankle admits that he may have used colorful language, though possibly not in the tone presented last week, he says that he cannot threaten a firefighter with retaliation as implied. He has no authority over the hiring, firing, or the pensions of firefighters. Dayton and Bellevue operate their fire departments together and it is governed by a board made up of two representatives from each city's council and one citizen from each city.

The board is chaired by Dayton Councilman Virgil Boruske, Rankle's opponent in the November mayoral race. That's what Rankle says motivated the firefighters to speak out at the time and the way they did.

"I just truly feel it's their way to show their support for Virgil Boruske," the mayor said. Rankle said that Boruske would not be willing to make cuts to the fire department's budgets while the mayor would be. Rankle said Dayton will likely be forced to pull $400,000 from its surplus to balance the next fiscal year's budget. "I am very concerned about the whole budget," Rankle said. 

He said he understands that the two cities' fire department employees do not make salaries equivalent to neighboring Ft. Thomas and others, but Dayton will soon be responsible for paying off bonds from multiple tax increment financing (TIF) districts it has used for new housing developments. While the city will eventually be in a better position financially because of all this development, that payoff is years away, the mayor said.

"That development is going to help more of our grandchildren than any of us in the near future," he said. The $500,000 the city will get for the sale of a marina to the developers of Manhattan Harbour should be put back in the economic development fund, Rankle said. Elsewhere, the city has purchased properties for the purpose of razing the structures and priming them for development.

Rankle has been mayor since winning election to the office in 2002. He served four years as a city councilman before then. It is the development on the riverfront that motivates him the most to seek another term. "I've put so much time and energy on the riverfront and I want to be there for some of the groundbreakings," he said. "I want to see the home values go up (in the city). That is the main investment of a lot of people in Dayton."

But Rankle and Boruske lead dueling factions on the city council that currently can't even agree on a consistent meeting location, and are sure to give each other a tough fight leading up to November's election. 

Firefighters speaking last week accused the mayor of keeping a "black list" of his political enemies. "I do not have a black list. I do not have a hit list. I'm accused of a lot of things I don't do," Rankle said. "I have not benefited as mayor (financially). If anything, it has cost me money."

Rankle said that he would apologize to the city for his words at next week's council meeting.

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Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News

Photo: Ken Rankle, Mayor of Dayton