Greenville Local 1867 Vice President and Fire Fighter Lisa Davis-Christ has filed a lawsuit against the city of Greenville, alleging the city violated her constitutional rights. Local 1867 also is a plaintiff in the suit.
Davis-Christ said she was “subjected to unjustified disciplinary action in the form of a probationary period and denied a promotion as part of (the city and Greenville Fire-Rescue’s) efforts to weaken and destroy the GPFFA.”
PFFPNC attorney Travis Payne is working with Davis-Christ on the suit.
Read the full article below that was published in the Daily Reflector, Greenville’s newspaper, on Aug. 27, 2013.
Association: Lack of support hurt event
The local firefighters association said the City of Greenville’s recent lack of support significantly has undermined its fundraising efforts, a claim disputed by the interim fire chief.
The Greenville Professional Firefighters Association and volunteer firefighters from Fountain, Farmville and Red Oak raised $8,650 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association earlier this month.
But the association is alleging they could have raised more funds if the city had not “withheld resources.”
Interim Chief Eric Griffin said that claim is “absolutely not true.”
The association sent a news release to The Daily Reflector about the event, held on Aug. 17 and 18, alleging that during prior campaign efforts the city and department assisted with the “Fill the Boot” campaign by sending out fire-rescue vehicles, allowing firefighters to wear uniforms or “turnout” gear and encouraging the department to participate.
“If city officials would have allowed Greenville firefighters to participate, they could have been at more locations and raised more money,” the news release said. “Unfortunately this year, politics and personal disputes got in the way of what really matters helping those in need.”
Griffin said the event was not sponsored by the Greenville Fire/Rescue Department, which is why the department did not participate in any official capacity and department fire engines were not sent out to the event and volunteers were not permitted to wear GFD gear or uniforms.
Donald Ragavage, fourth district vice president of the Professional Firefighters and Paramedics of North Carolina, said the City of Greenville has allowed on-duty personnel, emergency vehicles and uniforms to be utilized at MDA events.
Christine Bender, executive director of the Coastal Carolinas MDA District Office, said this is the first time in 10 years that GFD has not officially participated in the event.
“It’s always been done in collaboration,” Bender said. “So I did my normal call and said I was looking forward to the annual Boot Drive and the interim chief said that they were very sorry but there would be no support from the department at the MDA event in the way of trucks.”
GPFFA representative and member of GFD Jeff Stallings sent an email to Battalion Chief Shannon Terry on July 25 requesting a reserve engine and support from any on-duty staff with free time.
An email from Battalion Chief Susan Barrett was sent Aug. 12 to the department that said, “per the city manager the department will not be involved in any way with this year’s fundraising for the ‘Fill the Boot’ campaign. We will not be sending any apparatus or people on duty. If you choose to help on your day off you are not to wear anything that has been issued to you by the department, uniform, turnout gear, etc.”
Bender said she also was copied on the email.
Repeated calls to City Manager Barbara Lipscomb on Wednesday and Thursday were not returned.
“It’s our policy that we don’t wear uniforms off duty,” Griffin said. “It’s part of the regular policy. If it’s purchased by the department, it falls under that policy.”
Bender said she hopes the department will continue to support MDA.
“I told (Griffin) I was sorry the relationship had ended for whatever reason,” Bender said. “But that going forward I hoped we could figure this out and suggested that the city might like to hold their own MDA event.”
Griffin said the reason GFD did not participate this year is because there are plans in the works for a GFD-sponsored MDA event, but Bender said nothing has been planned yet.
“(Griffin) said he would be open to meeting with me to discuss opportunities I suggested after he said they wouldn’t be participating,” Bender said. “But there has been no follow up to that.”
Bender said she wanted to make it clear that GFD members were not prohibited from participating in the Aug. 17-18 event, but that there was no official department support.
The GPFFA alleges Griffin and the city chose not to support the event because of the lawsuit filed by the association against the city and because of the survey released by the department.
Event organizers can apply to rent a standby fire engine from the city for a fee, but Bender said that had not been the case in past years for MDA events.
“I’ve never had any problems before,” she said. “Chief Ale always supported us. I wasn’t really prepared for this.”
Bender said she and other event volunteers went to work recruiting other volunteers and managed to bring in volunteer fire departments and their vehicles for the event.
The change in support is “obviously political,” Bender said.
“It’s a hornet’s nest politically,” she said. “It’s obviously something to do with city government and I learned you can’t fight city hall and I never have and never will. I just started looking for other ways to open other doors. But they made it very clear there would be no official participation.”
Firefighters across the country are the biggest supporters of MDA, according to Bender.
“We were shut down for this,” Bender said. “But the door wasn’t closed for the future.”