HOUSTON – Tensions were high Wednesday between Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and several firefighters after two incidents in which the Houston Professional Firefighters Association said the mayor initiated confrontations.
The incidents came after a previous dispute over pay raises.
“The mayor should not use his position of power in which to intimidate firefighters,” said Marty Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Firefighters Association .
He said a fire inspector was working security at a Rockets game Thursday and he refused to shake Turner’s hand.
“He (Turner) chose to get very close to him and start yelling at (him), telling him that he is his boss and that 'He will respect me,'” Lancton said.
Lancton said members of Turner's detail took the firefighter's identification and wrote down his information.
“In a position of power (Turner) tried to intimidate and then threaten that firefighter and say he would personally make sure he would never work here again,” Lancton said.
He said Turner doesn’t have authority over the firefighter’s job. Lancton also said that two days earlier, the mayor had an issue when another firefighter refused shake his hand.
Lancton sent Turner a letter on Friday that said:
“We believe these confrontations violate state law. If they occur again, we will take appropriate action.”
As of Wednesday, Turner had not responded to Lancton.
Turner spoke to Channel 2 and said, “If you are not professional and if you are disrespectful, as a city employee, on duty, in uniform then yes, I expect for you to be disciplined."
In a statement, Turner also said:
"I respect first responders and all other employees of Houston. I work to earn their respect every day. But more important is what the people of Houston deserve. What they deserve is a unified work force that concentrates on providing public safety and public service. Unity requires that employees, especially those in uniform, respect their command structure and stand ready to engage with any law-abiding resident, including the mayor. They must also be ready to respond to any emergency reported by any person. Codes of conduct are in place to emphasize public service. Ninety-nine percent of employees follow them. Violations should not be tolerated."
Lancton said the mayor is not a member of the department’s command staff.
“The 4,000 men and women who put their lives on the line everyday should not be subjected to politics and things that happen that are out of their control,” he said.
Lancton said Turner should have filed a formal complaint with the fire department and the fire chief to start a formal investigation.