Fire chief to retire, had rocky relationship with union

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TOLEDO - (WTVG) - Toledo fire chief Luis Santiago announced through a letter to firefighters that he was retiring in August.

Given the tension between the chief and Local 92 union members over the last few years, the question is, Was he pushed into this decision?

Santiago made his most recent public appearance at the fallen firefighters memorial, Monday.

But people close to the chief tell 13abc reporter Bill Hormann his decision to retire was made a least a week ago.

We are also told Santiago met with the mayor last week.

Wednesday, the chief made his retirement official by sending this letter to firefighters, writing in part, "...it is and has been a privilege leading this great department that is full of talent and dedication."

But his seven years as fire chief has been marked by hostility with the fire union. Three years ago, 87-percent of voting union members declared *no confidence* in his leadership.

The union filed dozens of grievances and charged a lack of safety led to the deaths of two firefighters in 2014.

But Santiago had the support of mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.

However, challenger Wade Kapszukiewicz won the union's endorsement in the race for mayor. His opinion on the fire chief's performance seemed weak when asked by 13abc during the mayoral campaign.

Kapszukiewicz, say "I don't know. I don't know... um, in terms of Santiago, i just really haven't reviewed it."

Wednesday, the assistant chief Karen Marquardt, widely considered as Santiago's likely replacement, said the chief made this decision on his own without political or union pressure.

As for Local 92, their new president developed a working relationship with the chief over recent months. Jeff Koenigseker says fire service has not suffered. And upon hearing of Santiago's retirement, he stayed positive, saying, "We certainly wish him well in whatever his future endeavors are. A happy and healthy retirement. Good Luck."

The mayor released a statement praising Luis Santiago's service, saying in part, "I want to publically thank him for his bravery as a firefighter, his service to the people of Toledo, and for the advances made by the department under his leadership."

The mayor is expected to announce a replace in time for Santiago's last day, August 3rd.