City, Fire Union Face Off In Court
Photo: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE- Mayor Jean Stothert and Fire Chief Mike McDonnell are at odds over funding for the fire department.
The firefighters union filed a lawsuit last week after Mayor Stothert presented her budget. The plan included layoffs and demotions at the fire department, as well as taking rigs out of service.
The union says that violates the union contract and puts public safety at risk. The mayor insists her budget is legally sound.
The battle between the city and the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Union boiled over in court Wednesday.
The union is accusing the city of violating its labor contract and jeopardizing public safety.
Chief McDonnell, who was ordered by the mayor to remain silent during the budget process, testified in court he believes there is not a fire station in the city that can handle a reduction of a fire engine or ambulance.
McDonnell also testified the department doesn't meet the standards of the National Fire Protection Association when it comes to response times.
He says the department is trying to improve their times and move in a direction of complying with those standards, but a reduction of staff and rigs will keep that from happenings.
Union President Steve LeClair also took the stand saying the department has an obligation to provide safety for residents and fire fighters.
But the city says the lawsuit is premature.
It argued Mayor Stothert's budget proposal is only that, a proposal. No rigs have been taken out of service, and no one has been laid off.
They say the city council still has the opportunity to weigh in and that the budget could change before council votes in September.
Mayor Stothert was not at Wednesday's hearing, she was not subpoenaed.
District Court Judge James Gleason will review the testimony and evidence from both sides, but a ruling isn't expected for a few weeks.