Unions representing Baltimore firefighters tapped Mayor Brandon Scott as their pick for City Hall’s top office on Monday, while sharply rebuking his chief opponent Sheila Dixon.

At the Baltimore Firefighters Union Hall blocks away from M&T Bank Stadium, IAFF Local 964 President Joshua Fannon slammed the former mayor, who implemented rotating closures of five fire companies to cut costs during her tenure. That led to decreased response times, as well as salary cuts. She also proposed permanently closing three fire companies.

“The only thing that prevented it [the permanent closures] from occurring was her resignation from office,” he said, adding that Baltimore is a city that believes in second chances, “but there are limits to our forgiveness” before launching into the details of Dixon’s corruption probe.

Dixon resigned as mayor in 2010 as part of a plea deal on state perjury charges. In a separate 2009 conviction of embezzlement, a jury of 12 city residents found her guilty of using gift cards on items for her family and staff that were donated by a developer and intended for distribution to needy families.

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The scandal clouded her 2016 and 2020 mayoral campaigns, in which Dixon placed second in each Democratic primary. She narrowly lost to Scott last cycle. Polling suggests she and the incumbent mayor are in a close race for the May 14 election.

“If a firefighter was convicted of stealing gift cards meant for children on Christmas, believe me: They would be terminated and never walk back into our ranks again, because they violated that sacred public trust,” said Fannon, whose union represents fire officers.

The condemnation stands out in discourse among Scott’s allies.

The mayor has avoided taking direct shots at Dixon for the corruption scandal, instead leaning on broader rhetoric that argues “we can’t return to the broken ways of the past.” The majority of his campaign proxies have followed suit; the Metropolitan Baltimore AFL-CIO Council didn’t bother mentioning Dixon in their endorsement of Scott.

IAFF Local 734 President Matthew Coster praised Scott for purchasing more firefighting equipment, his plans to allocate federal stimulus money to fire stations, and his work on pension reform legislation that would roll back previous legislation that cut benefits.

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“Mayor Scott promised not to balance the city’s budget on the backs of firefighters, and he followed through with that promise,” Coster said. IAFF Local 734 represents firefighters and paramedics.

Coster previously complained to WBFF Fox45 that the fire department had not received any federal stimulus money, but walked back his February comment, saying he did not realize the Scott administration was developing a plan for the department. “We’ll have the funds,” he said.

In a statement, Dixon said she will always have the backs of city firefighters, just as they always have the backs of city residents.

“Unlike Mayor Scott, I would already have used ARPA money to upgrade the safety equipment they need to protect Baltimoreans and themselves when fighting fires,” she said.

The department saw some difficulties during Scott’s tenure, including the 2022 deaths of three firefighters who responded to a fire at South Stricker Street and the 2023 deaths of two firefighters who responded to a Linden Heights Avenue fire. Former chief Niles Ford abruptly resigned in 2022 after the release of a report into the Stricker Street blaze.

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Fannon said Scott’s responses to the difficulties significantly influenced the unions’ decision to endorse him, citing the mayor’s open-door policy.

“We give them a call and he picks up the phone and we talk through these difficult issues one subject at a time,” Fannon said.