Supporters of 6 suspended U-City firefighters rally at city hall

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UNIVERSITY CITY, MO (KTVI) – Firefighters and police officers as well as University City residents protested outside University City Hall Monday to support the 6 firefighters who were suspended after supporting political candidates.

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2 comments

  • Cindy Thierry

    Once again, the city manager misrepresents the state statue. Below is a explanation of the state law.

    The State law in question, Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.145, applies to “political subdivisions.” Fire fighters are not political subdivisions. Between the City and the Fire Fighters, only the City can violate this law.

    Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.145 reads, in part –

    “No political subdivision of this state shall prohibit any first responder… from engaging in any political activity while off duty and not in uniform… unless such political activity or candidacy is otherwise prohibited by state or federal law.”

    The City may, if it chooses to, limit a first responder’s political speech when the first responder is on duty or in uniform. However, Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.145 does not obligate the employer to impose such restrictions, and absent lawful administrative policies governing such activity, there is nothing statutorily preventing first responders from engaging in campaigns as they see fit.

    The City’s regulation on employee campaign activity, AR 4, violates this law, as it prohibits all campaign activity. The City has not changed that regulation, nor has it adopted a new regulation for first responders. Because this regulation is invalid as to first responders, there is no specific regulation that limits these employee’s free speech.

    Simply put that City has no valid regulation in place that prohibits a first responder from engaging in political speech. None. Yet, these fire fighters have been punished for exercising rights protected by the Missouri legislature.

    The City did not develop new regulations for first responder after Mo. Rev. Stat. 67.145. The City gave no guidance to the first responders. The City left the invalid regulation in place and never informed the first responders what, if any, new rule would be in place. Despite this, our fire fighters have been punished.

    If a government is to restrict free speech, it must do so clearly. The government must, when silencing speech, be able to articulate the manner in which the speech is limited, show the governmental interest that the specific restriction supports and that the limit to only that speech which can be lawfully limited.
    The City should not be allowed to decide what speech it will regulate on a case-by-case basis, after the fact.

    A public employee does not lose the right to speak on matters of public concern when they are hired. Adequate staffing of our firehouses is a matter of public concern. Political speech has always been granted 1st amendment protection.

    Even if U. City had a valid Administrative Regulation, there is no punishment within the city’s administrative regulations that allows for, or even suggests a 3-month suspension. While the City may have discretion in determining discipline, one might think that if a 3-month suspension had any validity, it would be part of the City’s disciplinary scheme as defined in it’s administrative regulations, specifically AR-4 which covers discipline. The 3-month suspension imposed on these first responders is something purely created for this one event.

  • Nick Frederiksen

    Cindy If your correct the firefighters should win the legal action easily. I wish they remained employed while this is being decided. In most cases it takes a long period of time for a decision to be made and I don’t think that the majority of citizens want this hanging around. Can the firefighters seek an injunction that would allow them to go back to work with pay while this issue is ruled on ? Keeping the firefighters employed is something that we do agree on.

    Nick

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