Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Chief George to take fight to Circuit Courts

Our web editor is out reporting a story, so I'll drop this reasonably hot news about Fire Chief Sherman George here for now.

Chief George to take fight to Circuit Courts
Mayor-appointed commission sides with mayor in decision

By Chris King
Of the St. Louis American

On Monday former Fire Chief Sherman George learned he had lost a battle in his effort to seek justice from Mayor Francis G. Slay and the City of St. Louis, but he said it was a first-round battle he had expected to lose.

He said the fight will continue – and he and his lawyer don’t expect for the matter to be adjudicated conclusively until it reaches the Missouri Court of Appeals.
"It was nothing less than we expected from a Civil Service Commission appointed by this mayor," George said of the decision that his lawyer, Thomas Blumenthal, received Monday from the Civil Service Commission.
In a 20-page decision, the commission said it had concluded that George "was demoted for good and just cause," citing Rule IX, Section 3(a)(4) of the City’s Civil Service Rules.
The commission said the decision to demote George on October 1, 2007 "is hereby affirmed and upheld."
George believed his demotion was in effect a termination and retired soon after.
As set forth in the City Charter, the three members of the Civil Service Commission are appointed by the mayor. The current members are Stanley Newsome Sr. (chairman), Steven M. Barney (vice chairman) and John H. Clark.
George and Blumenthal both noted that the commission did not rule on George’s allegations of constructive termination or racial discrimination.
Blumenthal said that he would next take George’s case to the Circuit Courts. Blumenthal said he would file an administrative appeal under the Administrative Procedures Act.
But since the basis of their argument is a 2005 Missouri Court of Appeals ruling, they both believe the case will be resolved at that level.
"The only way we can hope to get some relief is through the appellate process," George said.
Pay plan flap

Slay’s appointees on the Civil Service Commission – and their close working relationship with the mayor – also are at the center of an ongoing labor dispute.

A number of unions representing City employees have been picketing City Hall, claiming that Slay undermined an agreement negotiated in good faith between union officials and Director of Personnel Richard Frank.

JoAnn Williams of Carpenters District Council said Frank had negotiated a pay plan with a 2.5 percent pay raise and merit increases that could add up to 3 percent a year. She said this agreement was consistent with a promise made by the mayor in exchange for union support for the half-cent sales tax increase that city voters passed in February.

Williams and the unions’ legal counsel claim that Slay then worked behind the scenes with the commission to float a substitute pay plan with fewer financial incentives.

A July 17 Labor Tribune report quotes from minutes from a June 13 commission meeting.
In the meeting, Director of Personnel Richard Frank asks commission Vice Chairman Steven M. Barney about the origin of the substitute pay plan.

Barney said, "I had the mayor’s office help me with this."
The American has a PDF of the contract between the Board of Police Commissioners and Metropolitan Towing on its website.

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