Judge upholds demotion of firefighter

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) - A Muskogee County judge on Wednesday
upheld the demotion of a firefighter whom officials disciplined for
violating the city's sexual harassment policy.
The firefighters union and the affected captain, Robert K.
Conley, asked District Judge Jim Edmondson to rule that the city
charter allows for the suspension or termination of a firefighter
but not for a demotion.
Edmondson determined that it is more likely than not that the
city has the legal power to demote someone.
"The applicant has to show on an injunction that there is
likelihood of success on its merits. I'm not impressed," Edmondson
said of union's complaint before issuing his ruling.
The city argued that the firefighters collective bargaining
agreement adheres to the Muskogee Fire Department rules, which
allow demotions, and that the city charter doesn't bar firefighters
from being demoted.
Conley was notified on Friday that he was being demoted after a
month-long investigation into a sexual harassment complaint filed
by Amy McKinney, the city's first female firefighter.
McKinney did not allege improper touching but harassment because
she is a woman. There was not enough evidence to discipline the
other three firefighters included in McKinney's complaint, the city
determined.
City Attorney Steve Cousparis told Edmondson that McKinney was
on Conley's shift on three occasions and complained of
gender-specific verbal comments, discriminatory assignment of
duties, failure to provide required guidance and false accusations.
Edmondson also denied temporary injunctions on union complaints,
including one alleging that the city's disciplinary letter to
Conley did not satisfy requirements of due process and wasn't
specific enough about McKinney's complaints against him.
"We'd sure like to know what we're accused of prior to the
hearing," union attorney D.D. Hayes told the judge.
Edmondson ruled that the city's notification appeared to be
fully in accord with the law on a disciplinary action.
"I'm just very disappointed," Hayes said after the ruling.
Conley and the union will proceed with a grievance to the Civil
Service Commission, Hayes said.
"That's what the judge said is a remedy, so you do what the
judge says," Hayes said. "The best thing to do is to get on to a
hearing."

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press

***NOTE: Captain Robert Conley was demoted to driver last week after it
was determined he violated Muskogee's sexual harassment policy by
providing a hostile work environment for the city's only female
firefighter.