Proposition B ruling invalidates layoffs, Mayor Turner says

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Update May 15, 11:16 a.m.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said the layoffs of 220 firefighters, 67 firefighter cadets and 47 municipal workers that have been issued in the last couple weeks are no longer necessary.

“There will be no need to demotions within the fire department, no layoffs for any of our employees, no demotions and we can bring back the cadets and move the city forward,” Turner said.

He said the city will offer to return to the bargaining table with the Houston Professional Firefighters Association to try to negotiate a raise. He did not confirm that pay raises issued last week will be revoked however he said he does not want to “claw anything back.”

The Houston Police Officer Union President Joe Gamaldi said the Police Officers Union is pleased with the outcome and hopes the firefighters union agrees to revoke its appeal and return to negotiations.

City Attorney Ron Lewis told reporters that the judge found that the proposition conflicted with existing government code that specifies that firefighter pay ought to be tied to comparable positions in the private sector. That law, Texas Local Government Code 174, which also regulates police pay, has a provision that pre-empts any other local ordinance.

Original post May 15, 10:31 a.m.

Proposition B has been ruled unconstitutional by District 157 Harris County Judge Tonya Garrison, but the firefighters union is already planning an appeal.

The voter-approved proposition mandated equal pay between firefighters and police officers of commensurate rank.

Houston City Attorney Ron Lewis passed the information to Mayor Sylvester Turner during a City Council Meeting May 15, after which Turner gave a brief update to council members.

The Houston Police Officers Union filed a lawsuit along with the city of Houston questioning the constitutionality of the proposition and heard oral arguments April 18.

The ruling states that the proposition violates the Texas Constitution’s rules surrounding city ordinances and is pre-empted by the Texas Local Government Code’s meet-and-confer rules for police and fire departments.

The ruling comes after court-ordered mediation between the two parties failed. As a result of the cost of implementing pay raises for Houston Firefighters, the city has endured several rounds of layoffs of municipal workers and 220 firefighters. The layoff notices are 60 day notices and can technically be reversed before they end of the 60-day period in June.

“The court’s Prop B ruling is a disappointment, but our fight for what’s right is far from over. Two courts have ruled on the constitutionality of Prop B – one for, one against,” the statement from the The Houston Professional Firefighters Association reads. “We will continue to strive to force Sylvester Turner to respect the will of 298,000 Prop B voters who sent a strong message that Houston should equally value its police and fire personnel. The mayor’s vindictive, taxpayer-funded campaign against Houston firefighter families continues. While this fight goes on, we will continue to deliver excellent service, be good stewards of city resources, and give back to the communities we serve.”

View the full ruling here:



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Emma Whalen
Emma is Community Impact Newspaper's Houston City Hall reporter. Previously, she covered health care and public education in Austin.
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