UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KTVI)-- Firefighters in University City think city officials are hypocrites. City officials say they are just following the law. The courts will decide. The dispute revolves around campaign advertisements.
It all began when a candidate for city office in University City in the most recent election used a photo of himself and University City firefighters. State law prohibits first responders from appearing in uniform for campaigns.
The firefighters say they were not wearing University City uniforms.
The five showed up at city hall Thursday afternoon and were quickly suspended without pay for 3 months. A lawyer for firefighters displayed campaign leaflets from current Mayor Shelly Welsh.
When the county wanted to pass a 9-1-1 tax, a University City firefighter was given prominent display in the ad. Firefighters think city officials are two faced. A firefighter union representative Jeff Proctor said, “They have used us for several campaigns when it benefits them, however when we exercise our first amendment rights we're served with a three month suspension with no pay.”
Lehman Walker the city manager for University City said, “First responders, including firefighters, cannot be involved in political activity in uniform. If you take a look at the photograph on campaign literature any reasonable person would conclude they were in uniform.”
The mayor had no comment about the political leaflet.
Firefighters plan to sue.
It is a community in turmoil with its firefighters. Their union is already suing concerning contract negotiations with the city and one firefighter is suing for discrimination.