Houston Council Members Walk Out of Ethics Hearing on Firefighter Layoffs

Another contentious day at Houston City Hall where several council members walked out of an ethics committee hearing on last week's vote to lay off 220 firefighters.

Some members feared the line of questioning could interfere with mediation talks.

The firefighters' union claims some council members approved the layoffs without realizing the plan also included hundreds of demotions for those remaining firefighters.

"I find it interesting that some council members were extremely aware of what they were voting on when the legal representatives of the firefighters had no idea," said HPFFA President Marty Lancton."We would believe that to be an illegal act by the city with an unfair labor practice."

HFD Chief Sam Pena earlier testified that he met one-on-one with several council members to offer details of the plan to cover voter-approved pay raises under Proposition B.

"Over the last two months or so, I did meet with most all of you in private to discuss the financial impact of what we're seeing now and what we anticipated in the future for fiscal year 2020 and beyond," he said.

Chief Pena says that plan includes a reduction in shifts and demoting dozens of firefighters to back fill the layoffs.However, he insists the demotions do not impact current salaries or pensions.

Mediation talks are scheduled to resume Thursday.

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