Fire Fighters Obtain $180,000 Judgment Against City of Alton
SPRINGFIELD, IL – A Federal District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois, entered a judgment March 8, 2006, against the City of Alton, Illinois, its Mayor Donald Sandidge and its former Fire Chief Timothy Spaulding in a lawsuit filed by the Alton Firefighters Union, Local 1255, of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and current and former fire fighters for violations of their First Amendment and Illinois political action rights. The City, Sandidge and Spaulding must pay a total of $180,000 to all the plaintiffs.
“This judgment is a total and complete victory for Local 1255, its members and the plaintiffs,” says Rob Franke, president of Local 1255 and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. In March 2004, fire fighters Thomas Chappell and James McFarlane were suspended by the City for their support of a ballot referendum designed to institute ambulance service in the City’s fire department.
Both Chappell and McFarlane were later reinstated to their positions through arbitration procedures. The arbitrators who reinstated the men determined that they had been suspended because of their political views. The arbitrators awarded the men back pay, but lacked the power to award any other damages.
In March 2005, Chappell, McFarlane, Franke and Local 1255 filed the federal lawsuit against Mayor Sandidge, Spaulding and the City for carrying out a plan designed to politically discredit the fire fighters and “to squash political dissent.”
The IAFF took this case under its Guardian Policy, to assist Local 1255 in its legal fight. “Free speech is a basic right in America and when overreaching government officials try to take it away, we will do everything possible to stand with our members in their fight,” said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger. “This is an important victory for public safety in Alton and for its fire fighters.”
Key allegations made in the lawsuit were not only that the City suspended Chappell and McFarlane in violation of their First Amendment rights, but also that Spaulding and the mayor had refused to allow Local 1255 to hold meetings regarding the ambulance service and that the mayor had ousted Chappell from Madison County’s 911 Board in retaliation for filing the federal lawsuit.
In February 2006, the City, Sandidge and Spaulding offered to pay the plaintiffs $180,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, and to have a judgment entered against them in the case, in order to end the litigation. The plaintiffs accepted.
“Obviously, the City cried ‘uncle’ on this one,” says Franke. “You don’t agree to pay out six figures and admit that you broke the law just to save legal fees. They knew a jury verdict would have been much worse.”
Both Chappell and McFarlane say they are pleased with the result.
“This lawsuit was about how the mayor and the City destroyed Jim and my professional and personal lives for exercising our First Amendment rights,” says Chappell. “Now there’s a federal court judgment that recognizes that, and some compensation for the damage to our reputations.”
Rick Merrill, President of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois, said, “If politicians exclude, or, in this case, punish, fire fighters for participating in the public debate about health and safety, everyone’s wellbeing is jeopardized. Municipalities across Illinois must understand that fire fighters have the same political rights as all citizens.”
The federal lawsuit is entitled, Chappell, et al, v. Sandidge, et al., Case No. 05-192-MJR.
The IAFF, headquartered in Washington, DC, is the 12th largest union among the 54 national unions that makeup the AFL-CIO.* The IAFF represents more than 272,000 professional fire fighters and emergency medical personnel who protect 80 percent of the nation’s population.* More than 2,900 affiliates serve nearly 6,000 communities in Canada and in every state in the U.S.** For more information, visit www.iaff.org.
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Thread: Why I belong to the IAFF
03-16-2006, 12:57 PM #1
Why I belong to the IAFFIAFF-IACOJ PROUD
03-19-2006, 07:25 PM #2
03-19-2006, 07:44 PM #3
- Join Date
- Nov 1999
Do you have any information stating if the the cities insurance will pay this out or if the mayor and fire chief are paying too. I would hope that the taxpayers move to get rid of these two clowns.-------------------
"The most mediocre man or woman can suddenly seem dynamic, forceful, and decisive if he or she is mean enough." from "Crazy Bosses"
Genius has its limits, but stupidity is boundless.
03-19-2006, 10:30 PM #4
Ken I will try to find out for you. As a principal officer in a small local, I am going to help push a resolution at our State Association convention in June directing our political people to help establish legislation that will hold municipal officials more accountable for their actions (or inaction). Too many times around here an arbitrator makes a decision which often times gets appealed. Fine, thats the way the system works. The ugly part comes in when the local government chooses to ignore the court rulings. It happens more often around the Chicago Area then you would think. What we plan on doing is get legislation passed to mandate these municipalities and their agents to follow the rulings. Be it through contempt of court charges or better yet, hitting them in the pocket (personally, not through taxpayer money). These cities know they can bankrupt a small local pretty easily by causing these locals to hire lawyers etc. We want to level the playing field by forcing these cities to adhere to the court rulings the same way we would be expected to.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
03-19-2006, 10:33 PM #5
A prime example
Cicero Local 717 Under Attack, Again
By Local 717
The Cicero Fire Department is a long time member of the International Association of Fire Fighters. As many of you may know Cicero Firefighters Local 717 has rarely had a fair or professional working relationship with the town or department management. Over the years Local 717 has fought through many Unfair Labor Practice suits, gone years without a contract, fought against residency all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court, had 2 fire fighters illegally fired, and suffers from constant Union bashing and Union discrimination. Any future hopes of establishing a fair and professional working relationship with the town and management are just that, hopes. On December 31, 2005 our current contract will expire and the Town of Cicero, to this day, refuses to hold any negotiations for a new contract. The list goes on and on.
Recently, the union has suffered from a major attack from the Cicero Fire Department Management and the Town. On November 30, 2005 Cicero Fire Department Local 717 Union Secretary Bill Austin had a labor dispute with an Assistant Fire Marshal over changes in working conditions (a violation of our Collective Bargaining agreement). Pipeman Bill Austin was acting in his capacity as Local 717 Secretary, while engaged in this dispute he informed the Assistant Fire Marshal that, as a Union Executive Board Member, it is his responsibility to ensure that policies are fair and uniform to all members of each shift and do not discriminate. The Assistant Marshal's response was "I don't give a f--- what the Union wants and you have no f---ing say in anything." The Marshal then told Union Secretary Austin to shut his mouth. Secretary Austin then asked the Marshal not to talk to him that way adding "I'm not your child." The Marshal then said "Shut the f--- up." Union Secretary repeated his request and was then told to "Shut the f--- up" several more times and eventually ordered to "get the f--- out! Pack up your sh-- and go home, that’s an order!" Union Secretary Bill Austin was effectively locked out of the department.
The town, in an attempt to cover their mistakes, conducted a "limited" investigation in which most witnesses including Secretary Austin were never questioned or asked for statements about the events that unfolded that day. As a result of this so called investigation Secretary Austin was suspended without pay for three shifts. This investigation and subsequent suspension violated almost every part of the Cicero F.D. Rules and Regulations, Rules and Regulations of the Board Fire and Police Commissioners, Cicero Fire Fighter Local 717Collective Bargaining Agreement, previous settlements from Unfair Labor Practice rulings and many state and federal laws. Make no mistake, this was no disciplinary suspension. This was a direct attack and lock out against Local 717 and Union Secretary Austin.
If the town and management expect this union to roll over and take this kind of abuse they are in for a rude awakening. Local 717 contends that this suspension was illegal, improper, excessive, and the investigation leading to his suspension was incomplete and prejudicial. Our local has already taken steps to mount a defense for our attacked union brother, involving the IAFF, AFFI, and local 717’s law firm. We are now asking for your support. On December 20 at Crabby’s Pub we held a "Lock Out" party to rally all the Union Brothers and Sisters in the area to show support for Secretary Austin and our Local.
Please know that the Cicero Fire Fighters Local 717 is a strong and active union. If at any time we can be of assistance to your local please don't hesitate to call. We have been their in the past for other locals and we will continue you do so. The strength of the IAFF, AFFI comes from the non wavering support that we give too each others local’s. We pride ourselves on who we are and what we do. No level of union bashing, discrimination, harassment or intimidation will ever keep us from being anything less than a strong Union and the Professional Firefighters that we are. Thank you for your time.
December 20, 2005IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
03-19-2006, 10:37 PM #6
Heres some more
Cicero Local 717 Union Bashing – Part 2
By Local 717
As you may recall back in December 2005, our Cicero Local 717 Secretary was suspended from duty for nine days after standing up for the Union. Our Secretary was confronting an Assistant Fire Marshal over contract violations and changes in working conditions. This Assistant Marshal did not want to work with the Union and instead suspended our Union Representative. As a result our Union rallied and raised money for our brother, his suspension did not cost him a dime. We have also filed an Unfair Labor Practice suit in which the Cicero Fire Administration will have to try to explain their actions.
Recently, our Secretary once again confronted the same Assistant Fire Marshal in regards to another contract violation. Again, the Assistant Fire Marshal did not want to deal with the Union or try to resolve the violation. He then told our Union Secretary that in the future the Union is not to question him nor approach him with contract issues. The Assistant Marshal added that all violations and issues are to go straight to the grievance procedures.
This helps us prove our case that the Cicero Fire Management is not interested in working with the Union at all. They will violate our contract and act in their own interest, regardless of the consequences.
The Cicero Fire Administration is not capable of running a professional Fire Department. Their total lack of respect, or at the very least recognition, for our Collective Bargaining Agreement prevents our department from moving forward. As you all know, the legal process that follows contract violations takes time. But we are a patient Local. We look forward to the time when these Marshals will be judged and held accountable for their actions. As a Union, every time we have stepped up and faced the Town and Administration we have had rulings in our favor--Every Time. We are not bragging, simply stating that we do not take action unless we are 100 percent right.
Cicero Local 717 hopes to show all other Unions that if we all stick together and stand up for our rights, we will eventually be successful. Again, if any other Locals out there ever need help, you can always look to the 717. We will keep you all updated on future events. Thank you for your time.
February 14, 2006IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
03-20-2006, 01:47 AM #7Originally Posted by MIKEYLIKESIT
Thanks for the supportive posts Mikey, and for bringing these horrendous issues to light.FTM-PTB-RFB
03-20-2006, 06:28 PM #8
- Join Date
- Mar 2006
Can you explain the fight against residency that went to the U.S. Supreme Court? What was it based upon, what was the decision and where could I find more info.
In Boston, anyone hired after 1994 is required to live in the 2nd most expensive city in the country without an option to leave.
03-20-2006, 06:32 PM #9
I believe it is the Illinois Supreme Court. Tough town. It is where Al Capone moved when things got too hot in Chicago. By the way, The Chicago F.D. has always had a residency requirement. Most Suburbs here don't.IAFF-IACOJ PROUD
03-20-2006, 07:46 PM #10
I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of the Alton guys when I was at a AFFI conference. That was quite a mess. The State and International really came together for them. If I recall correctly, the resolution you are considering would have done them a lot of good.
As far as residency up here, only a few have it, and then its pretty liberal, something like 35 miles for one place. I know they could not pay us what it would cost to live here. Housing prices are edging up toward 300,000+ for small run down houses.IACOJ, Flatlander Division
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