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Judge rules that firefighter petition signatures must be reviewed promptly

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HOUSTON – Houston firefighters notched a victory against the city of Houston Tuesday, with a court ruling that mandates the city secretary count signatures for a petition to change the city charter.

The ruling is an important step to putting the issue of firefighter pay in the hands of Houston voters.

The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association has long argued their members unfairly make considerably less money than Houston police officers, and they have sought to change that disparity.

Firefighter trainees make about $14,000 less annually than cadet police officers.

Negotiations with the mayor to meaningfully increase HFD pay scales has not produced results.

So last year, HPFFA's President, Patrick Lancton, sued the city secretary in an attempt to review the so-called  "Pay-Parity" petition, verify and count the valid signatures, and report her findings to the city council of the city of Houston.

Tuesday, Harris County District Court Judge Dan Hinde, sided with Lancton's suit, directing city secretary, Anna Russell, who has held the job for 46 years, to count and verify petition signatures.

Ultimately, the ruling could pave the way to giving the city of Houston residents the chance to decide whether HFD firefighters should receive equal pay with HPD police officers.