City Won't Fund Private Attorney to Fight Firefighters


UPDATE, 6/25/14:
The Reno City Council will not provide any more money to a private attorney to fight a lawsuit against the Reno Firefighters Union. The motion Wednesday night did not get enough votes to pass.

City staff recommended the council allocate $300,000 to the firm Fisher & Phillips to fight the lawsuit. Council had already allocated $150,00 to the firm, but that contract expires next week.

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RENO, NV - Washoe District Court Judge Lidia Stiglitch on Tuesday (June 24, 2014) granted a preliminary injunction, halting the layoffs of 32 Reno firefighters. The decision comes after the Reno Firefighter's Union IAFF Local 731 filed a suit against the city of Reno earlier this year.

(The complete court document is on pdf; click the link on the right.)

It came down to funds to pay for firefighters. Reno argued it did not have money to fund the 32 positions because the funds had been allocated to other priorities. The union argued that according to NRS 288.150, any funds available must be used to keep firefighters employed. Stiglitch agreed with the Reno Firefighters.

Much of the public outcry in this case has been in regard to resident safety and firefighter safety. During testimony, Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger agreed that response times would increase, but said resident safety and firefighter safety would not be affected. Judge Stiglitch, however, sided with the Reno Firefighters. She said they provided sufficient evidence that a delayed response could result in lack of water supply and lack of ventilation which could cause a structural collapse in the event of a house fire.

In reference to the people who faced losing their jobs, Judge Stiglitch agreed with the Reno Firefighters. She agreed they would face irreparable harm if they layoffs went into effect June 30th, 2014. The city had made the argument that firefighters have the right to win their jobs back when money is available. Stiglitch disagreed, saying they would have to move out of the region to stay employed as firefighters. She said moving would jeopardize their ability to be rehired by the Reno Fire Department.

There was question from the beginning whether District Court even had the jurisdiction to hear the case. It is essentially a labor dispute between the city of Reno and the Firefighters' Union. The city argued such matters are not normally handled by the court, but instead are handled by the Employee Manager Relations Board. Stiglitch agreed with this, but said there is no other agency that has the injunctive power to stop the layoffs.

Stiglitch granted the preliminary injunction, but said moving forward, this issue should not be handled by the courts.

"Pursuant to the Local Government Employee Relations Act, the firefighters must exhaust their administrative remedies with the ERMB before they may seek relief from this court," Judge Stiglitch wrote in her decision.

Reno City Manager Andrew Clinger issued a statement late Tuesday, saying the city respects the judge's decision but is disappointed with what it means. "...We will be forced to continue to use the City's limited financial resources on legal services relating to this matter, instead of using those resources to provide services to the community."

The Reno Firefighter's Union, however, was pleased with the decision. Union President Dennis Jacobsen issued a statement saying in part, "This is a positive step forward for our city, and we look forward to getting back to what we do best -- providing fire and emergency services for our community."

In hopes of learning more about how the impending decision would affect the citizens of Reno, early Tuesday KOLO 8 confirmed with the city of Reno and the Reno Firefighters' Union that they would be available for questions after the decision was issued. However, once that actually happened, both decided they would not be answering questions. Reno cited the late hour in the day; the Reno Firefighters Association said they made an internal decision to only issue a statement and not answer questions. We will, of course, follow up with both parties in the coming days and hours.

The city of Reno will further discuss how to move forward with this issue at Wednesday's City Council meeting.

Stay with KOLO 8 News Now for more information as this story develops over the coming days and weeks.

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RENO, NV - A district judge spent Tuesday (June 17, 2014) hearing arguments between the city of Reno and the firefighters' union regarding the city's plan to lay off 32 firefighters.

The layoffs are scheduled to begin July 1, unless the union gets its way. No decision is expected right away.

The city lost a federal safety grant that it's using as reasoning for having to lay off firefighters, but the union says money would be available from other areas.


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