Firefighters demand public hearing over pay cut; city responds

Apr. 6—MORGANTOWN — Morgantown's firefighters have demanded a public hearing with the civil service commission over the pay reduction they say was retaliation by the city manager for refusing a lawsuit settlement offer.

The demand for the mandatory public hearing was filed Monday with Morgantown's city clerk Christine Wade, who is by law also the clerk of the civil service commission, according to Teresa Toriseva, attorney for the 51 members of International Association of Firefighters Local 313.

The city administration issued a response to the request for the hearing stating, "As city administration has stated previously, the personnel rules state how shift differential should be applied. This is not an issue of pay reduction. It is applying the personnel rules fairly to all city employees."

"Never in the known history of the City of Morgantown has anyone ever reduced the pay of an entire department of employees, and only that department of employees, $2, 000 per year, " the filing begins.

It goes on to state that firefighters are so important to the safety of a community that there are state laws called civil service, which protect the firefighters and "more importantly those rules prevent any city from endangering the public by taking adverse employment action against the firefighters without written reasons followed by a showing of good cause at a public hearing."

West Virginia law allows local civil service commissions to hear cases involving issues with firefighter pay, rank, positions and more. According to the filing, the commission also has the power to issue subpoenas, of which seven were issued.

When a city reduces a firefighter's pay, it is supposed to provide a written statement on the reasons for the reduction. Firefighters can then respond and request a hearing. City Manager Kim Haws did not file that statement, which is why the filing demanding the public hearing needed to be filed, it states.

Firefighters have accused Haws of removing their shift differential pay—a small hourly bonus above day shift pay—as retaliation for refusing a lawsuit settlement offer of $1.7M to compensate for back wages owed because of mishandled holiday pay.

Morgantown's firefighters work 24-hour shifts starting at 8 a.m. and have historically been given shift differential pay for the afternoon and midnight shifts. The shift differential is advertised as a benefit in Morgantown's firefighter recruitment literature, which is attached to the hearing demand as an exhibit.

As The Dominion Post has previously reported, the city and the union read the relevant laws regarding the power firefighters have choosing to start their shifts and the length of their shifts in the opposite way.

Should the pay cut be allowed, it will negatively affect the recruitment and retention of provisional firefighters in Morgantown and endanger the public, the filing states.

— The filing demands a hearing within 10 days and issued subpoenas for testimony from:

— City Manager Kim Haws — Morgantown Communications Director Andrew Stacy — Dave Schultz, payroll — Assistant city manager Emily Muzzarelli — Acting finance director Lori Livengood — Human resources director John Bihun — Fire chief Mark Caravsos The Dominion Post has reached out to Morgantown requesting a comment on the development.

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