City Accused of Intimidating Union Leader

     PHOENIX (CN) – A fire captain claims the Town of Florence suspended him without pay because he endorsed a mayoral candidate on the behalf of the firefighters union. The captain, who also is president of the union local, says top city officials “threatened, intimidated and interrogated him” about union activities, including where the group meets and who belongs to it.

     James Walter, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4512, says he met with incumbent Mayor Tom Rankin on Feb. 26 on behalf of the union to inquire about Rankin’s position on issues.
     Walter says he informed Florence Fire Chief Dennis Hixon that the union intended to endorse Rankin. After this, he says, Hixon, Town Manager Himanshu Patel and human resources director Jeanette Grady met with him and made “derogatory remarks about the union, warned, threatened, intimidated, and interrogated him about, among other things, the circumstances surrounding his meeting with Mr. Rankin, why the union was involved in politics, why employees felt the need to be part of a labor organization, as well as specific questions concerning internal union affairs such as where union meetings are held, who attends, and whether minutes are kept.” Walter claims Patel then ordered him and the union not to endorse Rankin.
     Walter claims the actions against him and the union did not stop there. He says with Hixon ordered that all union items be removed from the stations and gear. And he says that Hixon, Patel and Grady told him that if he put the “effort he puts into the union into being a captain that he would get further in the department,” and that they wanted to send a strong message with his suspension.
     Walter sued the town, Grady, Patel and Hixon in Federal Court. He seeks lost wages and punitive damages for retaliation, discrimination and constitutional violations. He is represented by Nicholas Enoch with Lubin & Enoch.

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