Battle over equal pay continues for Houston Fire Department

By Joel Eisenbaum - Investigative Reporter

HOUSTON - Houston Fire Department Chief Sam Pena would not reveal Friday whether he plans to vote in favor of his firefighters' push for pay parity with the Houston Police Department, if and when the issue is put on the ballot.

"I am going to vote, right? That's my civic duty," Pena said when Channel 2 investigator Joel Eisenbaum asked him how he intended to vote.

Pena emphasized he favored pay parity with other Texas fire departments.

The same sentiment was delivered Friday by the Houston Police Officers' Union president, Joe Gamaldi.

"We are 100 percent in support of Houston firefighters getting a pay raise, they deserve one. We are 100 percent opposed to pay parity. The Fire Department needs to compare themselves to their market counterparts, the people they are competing with in order to get cadets," Gamaldi said.

Gamaldi said HFD firefighters should look to the Dallas, San Antonio and Austin fire departments for parity.

Patrick Lancton, president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters, said that he respects Gamaldi and Houston police officers, but disagrees and wants the public to decide the issue.

"The Fire Department of New York and the New York Police Department, they have pay parity. Chicago fire and police: pay parity. Los Angeles pay parity. Dallas police and fire: pay parity," Lancton said.

At the moment, the point is somewhat moot. The Houston City Council has not yet voted to put the issue on the November ballot.

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