HOUSTON – The city’s firefighters are committed to hash out any differences arising from the recently passed Proposition B.
That was the message Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association, IAFF Local 341 President Patrick M. “Marty” Lancton and attorney Tony Buzbee of The Buzbee Law Firm wanted to send to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in response to a potential legal battle over the proposition granting the firefighters pay parity with Houston Police Department officers.
“Houston firefighters continue to search for solutions to problems no matter what those problems are,” said Lancton. “The commitment Houston firefighters have made for over a year and a half was that we would met anyone, any place, anytime, anywhere.”
For nearly a decade, the city has awarded 37 percent in raises to police compared to three percent for firefighters. Prop B requires the city to bring Houston firefighter pay in line with that of Houston police officers.
Turner has been open about his opposition to Prop B, insinuating that jobs could be lost within the fire department and other city services. After the proposition’s passage at the polls on Election Day, Houston City Council recently approved a $500,000 contract to be paid to Norton Rose Fulbright US LLP, the mayor’s former law firm, to defend the city against litigation related to the pay parity charter amendment.
Lancton acknowledged that Buzbee offered to help resolve the dispute between the city and the country’s third largest municipal fire department but said the men did not know each other prior to their first meeting two weeks ago.
“We appreciate his offer to open the lines of communication and mediate our differences and mediate a discussion between Houston firefighters and the city as we move forward during these challenging times,” said Lancton.
He criticized the mayor for “his vindictive retaliation against Houston firefighter families.”
“Litigation instigated by this mayor is not leadership,” said Lancton. “We need to fix, not fight. It is time.”
Buzbee said he is not representing any party. Referring to his experience in handling disputes, he suggested the rumblings over Prop B should be mediated for the sake of the taxpayers.
“Mediation saves money, money that would be wasted in the litigation process,” said the attorney.
Buzbee said that he “would try to start a dialogue to get other leaders in this community engaged.”
“Let us sit down and roll up our sleeves and get to work and resolve this dispute,” he stated.
According to Buzbee, he is open to Turner working with somebody else he is more comfortable with so as long as the parties engage in mediation.
Lancton and Buzbee were joined by Roy Cormier, a member of the HPFFA Board of Directors.