Fire Department Suspensions

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Fire Department Suspensions

Post by steve on Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:01 pm

Although I no longer live in the River Valley, it IS my hometown and I follow the transpiring events there with keen interest. When I read of the suspensions handed down to the firefighters, I was incredulous. I find it hard to comprehend that in this day and age, a municipality could carry such a ridiculous, intrusive and illogical statute on their books. I will grant you that there are instances where public employees are banned from political activities, but the requirements for such a ban are very specific. As an example, the Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from participating as a candidate or candidate's advocate in a "partisan" election, that is: one in which the candidates' political parties or affiliations appear on the ballots. Likewise, state and local employees are prohibited from partisan elections if they are funded through federal monies. They all are permitted to participate in and campaign for candidates of their preference in non-partisan elections. The reasons for the prohibitions are several, but they all go back to the days of political party bosses handing out favors (and retributions) based upon a public employee's party affiliation and support. Now, it has been many years since I've seen a ballot for Rumford elections, but I suspect that no party affiliation appears on those ballots. Therefore, I can only suspect that the bylaw in question here was created to punish the hardworking members of the Fire and Police Departments by denying them the right to endorse whomever they choose for Rumford public office. The men and women who wear those uniforms place themselves in harm's way more often than the average "Rumford Citizen" can ever comprehend. On the one hand they are asked to put their lives on the line, but on the other they are told that they cannot publicly endorse the candidate that they believe will best support them in their life-threatening duties. Shame on Rumford's citizens for allowing this injustice to continue.

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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by Admin on Sun Jun 29, 2008 10:34 pm

Welcome Steven,

Thanks for the educated and articulate post.


The men and women who wear those uniforms place themselves in harm's way more often than the average "Rumford Citizen" can ever comprehend. On the one hand they are asked to put their lives on the line, but on the other they are told that they cannot publicly endorse the candidate that they believe will best support them in their life-threatening duties. Shame on Rumford's citizens for allowing this injustice to continue.



I don’t think it could be said better than this.
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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by C on Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:53 am

Unfortunately, the bylaws specifically say "Town Official". I also believe both the FD & PD should have the right to endorse whoever they wish. Especially considering that where that candidate stands on issues will have a direct effect on their job performance and in many cases would effect their safety. I wonder if they can have a clause regarding this issue put into their next contract? Wouldn't that over-ride any of this by-law nonsense?



Section 10. Political Activity. No member of either department,
regular or special, including the chief, acting as an individual or in
concert with others, shall participate, direct ro indirectly, in any
act or program designed to, or tending to influence the election of any
Town official or to influence the appointment of any person. Violation
of the provisions of this section shall constitute a cause for
suspension or dismissal under the provisions of section 8 hereof.
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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by T on Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:21 am

C wrote:I wonder if they can have a clause regarding this issue put into their next contract? Wouldn't that over-ride any of this by-law nonsense?
No. Contract language cannot supersede city, state, or federal law. Of course, city, state, or federal law cannot supersede the US Constitution. A change in the sacred Charter (I apologize for the sarcasm) would be required. Of course, this particular by-law could be challenged in the courts. I suspect the firefighters' union is looking into it.

FYI - I am not an attorney. Maybe Mr. Carey could weigh in?

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Fire Department Suspensions

Post by gadget6412 on Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:33 pm

The members of the fire and police departments were not denied endorsing anyone, they are allowed to go in and vote however they please.

Section 10. Political Activity. No member of either department,
regular or special, including the chief, acting as an individual or in
concert with others, shall participate, direct or indirectly, in any
act or program designed to, or tending to influence the election of any
Town official or to influence the appointment of any person. Violation
of the provisions of this section shall constitute a cause for
suspension or dismissal under the provisions of section 8 hereof
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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by T on Mon Jun 30, 2008 8:02 pm

gadget6412 wrote:The members of the fire and police departments were not denied endorsing anyone, they are allowed to go in and vote however they please.

However, the "members" were not allowed to publicly endorse a candidate, hence the suspensions. In my mind, this is an infringement of their First Amendment rights and should be challenged.

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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by Admin on Mon Jun 30, 2008 9:07 pm

The way the bylaw is written, it looks like the firemen aren’t even allowed to vote in an election, since they would be engaging in behavior that could indirectly influence an election. The suspensions should be appealed and the above language should be repealed by the residents of this town or overturned as unconstitutional.
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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by Maine_Live on Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:44 am

I just have to wonder why one of the Fire Department employees, Jeremy Volkernick, didn’t get sanctioned after putting a sign on his lawn supporting Mark Belanger. I have to wonder if perhaps the reason he didn’t get sanctioned was because he supported Mark Belanger, our selectman who filed the complaint against the Firemen. In no way am I advocating for any sanctions for him. I just have to wonder about the “coincidence”. It follows past practice from the TRR group. Chuck wrote about that quite eloquently on the forum. “The same case could be made for our town officials. Be controlled by the proprietors of the website of suffer personal attacks. Conversely, should town leaders join with the Reporter; they shall receive eternal forgiveness and understanding, regardless of their behavior. There seems to be no middle ground.” I agree Chuck.
Does anyone really believe that if the Firemen had all supported Mark Belanger there would have been a complaint made about them? The complaints against the Firemen have a smell that reeks of payback.

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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Jul 05, 2008 8:18 am

If you don't like a rule, work to change it. But until it is changed, you must follow it.

The reason Jeremy wasn't sanctioned is because nobody complained. By the time it became an issue, he had submitted his resignation.
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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by T on Sat Jul 05, 2008 10:10 am

In the meantime, the "rule" can be challenged as to its "constitutionality". Also, a third, independent, impartial party (an arbitrator) should be called in to review the “political” action taken by Mr. Tripp and his fellow firefighters to determine if the town’s by-law was actually violated. I would not trust the select board in this matter, as none on the board are impartial.

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Re: Fire Department Suspensions

Post by KevinNSaisi on Sat Jul 05, 2008 6:41 pm

The union has options in this matter. They could appeal it to the selectmen, or the could file a grievance and follow that process. I believe they are persuing the matter.
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