Six suspended University City, Missouri, fire fighters represented by the Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 have been exonerated of any wrong doing by the University City Civil Service Board. Accordingly, the Board has unanimously recommended that the suspensions be lifted, the fire fighters return to work receive full back pay and benefits and remove the suspension from their personnel files.
This is a victory for the Local 2665 members, however, the city manager is not required to comply with the recommendations. The Civil Service rules only mandate that the City provide a “prompt” written response. “Prompt” is an undefined length of time.
“Our members are very pleased with the Board’s ruling and are encouraging City Manager Lehman Walker to follow the recommendations,” says IAFF Local 2665 Business Manager Jeff Proctor.
The six suspensions came after the University City members endorsed several candidates in the April municipal election. This is despite the fact that a state statute (First Responder Political Freedom Act MoRS 67.145) passed recently protects their right to be politically active.
The six members appeared in a photograph with the candidates that was used in a direct mail piece that went to some voters.
These six Local 2665 members were off duty, not in University City uniform and wore no apparel that identified them as U-City employees. Still, in retaliation for engaging in politics, the City Manager suspended all six employees for three months without pay beginning April 24.
If City Manager Walker fails to follow the Civil Service Board’s recommendations, Local 2665 leaders say legal action will probably be the next step.
Meanwhile, Local 2665 helped create a fund to alleviate the financial distress these members are experiencing as a result of the suspensions.