Tulsa City Council delays trial on firefighter status for a week
BY BRIAN BARBER World Staff Writer
Friday, November 30, 2012
11/30/12 at 7:52 AM
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A trial for Tulsa's City Council to determine whether there was sufficient cause for a firefighter to be demoted was delayed Thursday for one week.
The trial - which would be the first in the council's 22-year history - is now set for the 6 p.m. Dec. 6 council meeting.
"All of us on the council agree that this is a very sensitive and unprecedented issue, and we are going to be very careful about how we handle it," Council Chairman G.T. Bynum said. "In an abundance of caution in how we approach it, we decided to have a one-week delay."
Jeremy Moore, 37, is exercising his right under the City Charter to challenge in an open trial before the council his demotion from the Tulsa Fire Department's administrative chief position.
Moore was notified Nov. 7 that he would be serving as a district chief rather than in the administrative chief post he had held since April 2011. As a result, his salary was reduced from $94,011 to $81,654 annually.
Moore retained attorney Joel LaCourse and filed his trial demand with the City Clerk's Office on Nov. 16.
Councilors held an executive session at 5 p.m. Thursday during which their agenda said they would be discussing with the city attorney his legal advice regarding Moore's trial request.
However, during most of the session, City Attorney David O'Meilia and his staff remained out of the room in an adjacent hallway.
Moore's attorney has filed a request that the city Legal Department recuse itself from the proceedings.
In his filing, the attorney indicates that O'Meilia would be advising the council that the trial is not appropriate because it is not a case of a true demotion but instead a position transfer - which is the Fire Department administration's position.
But the city attorney and staff are also supposed to provide legal advice to the council on how to proceed, if it does so.
Bynum would not say what discussion took place in the executive session, but he noted that another one would be held Monday.
He would not say whether the council is considering hiring an outside attorney to advise it during the trial.
Firefighters have the power to request a council trial, while police officers and other city employees have their grievances heard by the Civil Service Commission.
When the City Charter was drafted in 1989, city administrators went to the police and firefighter unions and asked whether they wanted to be under civil service or have their own charter title written.
Police opted to be under the protection of the civil service process, while firefighters are covered by the language in the charter's Article 11, which allows for trial proceedings.
The only further recourse is to take the matter to court.
Moore, a 16-year veteran of the Fire Department, was one of five candidates in this year's search for a new fire chief, which ended with Ray Driskell's getting the top job.
In other business: The council voted Thursday to extend the Route 66 Task Force, sponsored by Councilor Blake Ewing, for a second year.
With more than 100 active members, the group is working on development and improvement efforts along Tulsa's stretch of the Mother Road.
It has broken into several committees to tackle different areas including signage, business development, event establishment and marketing.
Original Print Headline: City Council delays trial on firefighter status for a week
Brian Barber 918-581-8322
Jeremy Moore: He was notified Nov. 7 that he would be serving as a district chief rather than in the administrative chief post he had held since April 2011, resulting in a salary reduction