battle between firefighters, city resurfaces
legal battle between the city of Kokomo and Professional Firefighters
of Kokomo Local 396 took yet another turn last week and may be headed
to another courtroom.
filed for a change of judge, moving to take their civil case against
Kokomo out of Howard Superior Court IV, where Judge George Hopkins
previously ruled against the union’s requests for emergency injunction,
arbitration, and a contract extension.
argues the issues they’ve previously requested be addressed in Superior
IV “are not closed on the merits.” As such, on Jan. 29 both a motion
for a change of judge and renewed motion for emergency preliminary
injunction were filed by Local 396.
the union argues certain stipulations detailed by the city’s attorney,
Beth Copeland, in a hearing held in December have been violated.
ruling of the court and the assurances of Ms. Copland that the court’s
ruling was presumably based upon, the city of Kokomo since that date
has taken significant steps to negatively impact the insurance and
compensation of the firefighters,” read the filing.
firefighters claim the city has activated and/or announced their
intention to eliminate the health insurance benefit stipend received by
firefighter retirees. The filing stated that “this action could cause
firefighter retirees to be unable to pay premiums, thereby causing
coverage to lapse.”
the firefighters claim the city activated and/or announced a change in
the sick leave policy, “causing firefighters to lose vacation or wages
in certain situations that they are sick. Not only is this a violation
of the city’s commitment to not negatively alter the firefighters’
benefits, but it creates unsafe working conditions for the firefighters
and puts the community at risk.”
filing, Local 396 also claims the city eliminated personal time and the
ability for firefighters to trade time with each other.
these actions by the city constitutes not only actions that are
directly contrary to the assertions and representations made by Ms.
Copeland to this court, but also constitute irreparable harm to the
firefighters,” read the renewed motion for emergency preliminary
filing also claims the city is refusing to acknowledge the actions of
Local 396’s leadership, violating city ordinances recognizing the
firefighters’ right to be represented by the union, and that the city
ceased payroll deduction for union dues and/or hardship disability
payments “all once again in contravention of Kokomo city ordinance.”
these actions, the firefighters are seeking a preliminary injunction
“reinstating said benefits and all other just and proper relief.”
On Jan. 29
both parties were given seven days to agree on a special judge.
Feb. 1 the city filed a motion to strike against the firefighters’
motion, arguing that the request fell outside of the 10-day timespan
allowed after issues are closed. Hopkins issued an order denying the
union’s previous civil filings on Dec. 29, and on Jan. 12 a joint
request for clarification reaffirmed the ruling in favor of the city.
Firefighters of Kokomo Local 396’s] efforts to get a second bite of the
apple in front of a different judge are improper and inappropriate,”
read the city’s motion.
not act upon the city’s motion to strike. Additionally, the union filed
with an appeals court to have Hopkins’ ruling considered.