The Buck Stops There

I’m only a humble nurse, sitting here in my scrubs, with saggy white support hose on my legs and a cap shaped like a cupcake on my head. It may be presumptuous of me to say anything at all about the Governor’s chain of command. But what the heck…

When you come onto a unit to take charge there is a standard procedure. You and the nurse leaving the unit count the narcotics to be sure every pill is accounted for. Then you get the keys. Then you get a report on what happened to all the patients on the previous shift. The passing of the keys is an almost ritualistic passing of authority and responsibility. Any nurse who walks off shift with the keys in her pocket (it does happen) will be called at home and expected to return them right away. A good nurse doesn’t even leave the unit to eat lunch without passing the keys to another nurse. Everyone knows things can happen unexpectedly.

So why did the Governor leave the unit, I mean state, without informing the Lt. Governor? He did not give her report. He walked out with the keys in his pocket. Here’s from today’s Providence Journal

Although Roberts had pressed Carcieri’s staff to open the emergency operations center — where top officials from various agencies could have worked together and informed the public of their response — she said the governor’s staff turned her down. Gen. Bray also did not want to open the emergency operations center, said spokesman Lt. Col. Denis Riel.

If Donald Carcieri were a nurse he would have been written up.

This would have been his second write-up for the same mistake.

Nearly five years ago, there was another lieutenant governor in that position. When a major winter storm was predicted over President’s Day weekend in 2003, then-Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty returned from a conference in Washington, D.C. Carcieri, a new governor, remained in Florida.

Fogarty said then-Adjutant Gen. Reginald Centracchio told him that the governor’s staff didn’t want to open the emergency operations center because they didn’t want to panic anyone. Fogarty said he called Carcieri to insist, and the governor agreed. The EOC opened…

After that, Fogarty said, Carcieri rarely told him when he’d be out of the state.

What is Carciei’s problem with handing over the keys? If he were a nurse he would have been expected to take responsibility, but he’s a Governor, so he tossed his emergency management executive director overboard instead…

Robert J. Warren’s firing from the $74,700-a-year job was immediate, according to a terse news release. The governor’s spokesman declined comment.

Maybe the Governor was doing a heckuva job and it was all Robert Warren’s fault, especially since the Governor was far from the scene of the debacle.

Carcieri said he was flying from Kuwait to Afghanistan and probably sleeping as the storm bore down on Rhode Island.

Maybe Warren was a lunkhead and we’ll be better of with Major General Robert T. Bray, the guy who refused to open the emergency operations center when the Lt. Gov. asked him to. But look at this…

Warren had been the first EMA chief with public safety experience in at least 20 years. He had retired as Cranston fire chief after 27 years with the department and 6 as the city’s EMA chief, when he’d been awarded EMA director of the year.

Carcieri tapped him to head the state EMA in August 2005, as Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Under Warren, the state EMA produced its first hurricane plan within several months, its first statewide evacuation routes, and established an interoperable radio communications system meant to help officials from various state and local agencies communicate in a disaster. Warren restructured the agency, which had been used as a political dumping ground, and he used federal money to hire planners to work with the municipalities to improve their emergency response.

How did a good firefighter go bad? Was it because no one told him where the keys were?

Eventually it will emerge that there were many mistakes and failures among those who should have been responsible, you don’t have this big a mess without plenty of blame to go around. Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts has some very commonsense proposals for a meeting on Jan. 22, so let’s see if we come out with this with some organization and accountability, from the top down, so that we keep the state together when a real emergency comes.

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One response

  1. Thomas Kalinowski

    It may be presumptuous of me to say anything at all about the Governor’s chain of command.

    No it’s not. The Governor is your employee. It’s his job to protect you. If he fails at that job then he should jolly well hear about it from you.

    Btw, Roberts just won my support in 2010.

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