Firefighters Take Mayor to Court

The fight between the mayor and fire department is headed to court. Mayor Stothert says the department needs to make cuts-- to stay in budget. The fire union says the mayor is breaking the contract with her demands of layoffs, demotions and taking rigs out of service.

Mayor Stothert says the department -- led by fire chief Mike McDonnell -- needs to be better managed.

"In the last five years, the fire department has been over budget by a total of $30-million," she told the city council in her speech on the 2014 budget Tuesday afternoon.

Hours later -- her plan ended up in court.

The firefighter's union filed a lawsuit -- stating response times to fire and medical calls are already suffering because of previous moves to reduce manpower in 2011 -- and that this will only makes things worse.

"We're going to pass a budget that would suggest that we're going to take an engine company and a medic unit out of service when they need to be putting them in service," said the union's attorney John Corrigan, who says the contract doesn't allow for these types of unilateral changes.

The union is also disturbed by the mayor's actions when it comes to racy photos that surfaced Monday. One photo shows two Omaha firefighters wearing Mardi Gras beads -- posing for a picture when a Bachelorette passed by the fire house over the weekend. The second photo shows her posing on the bumper of a fire truck.

The mayor decided the fire department wouldn't investigate itself after all -- and asked police to look into it.

"This is grand-standing by the mayor at the grossest level," said fire union president Steve LeClair, "Apparently it's some grab to fan the flames of hysteria that everything is wrong in the fire department because of some feud the fire chief and the mayor wish to perpetuate."

LeClair points out the police department polices itself. The fire department can do the same fairly...especially in a situation he says rises to the category of "possible workplace rules violations."

Mayor Stothert issued a statement Tuesday night saying her budget does not violate labor contracts. "I look forward to being vindicated by the courts."

A judge will have the final say.

The two sides face off in court on Tuesday morning.


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