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Suspension Of Houston Firefighters Overturned In Controversy With Ex-Union President

Arbitrators have ruled that the City of Houston was wrong in suspending three firefighters for allegedly threatening former HPFFA president Bryan Sky-Eagle.


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Houston fire union office
Florian Martin
Arbitrators have ruled that the city of Houston was wrong in suspending three firefighters.

Last year, Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association president Bryan Sky-Eagle resigned, citing social media threats against him.

After an investigation, the city sustained charges against five firefighters – four of them received suspensions.

Independent arbitrators have now overturned three of those suspensions, one calling the city's investigation "cursory at best" and "fatally flawed."

Alvin White, the current union president, said this is proof that the firefighters never threatened Sky-Eagle, but simply vented their frustration in a closed Facebook group, which the former president wasn't a member of.

"That's part of the job as president," White said. "You're going to make some people happy, some people you won't. And if they want to voice their displeasure, more power to them."

White alleges Sky-Eagle claimed he felt threatened to distract from his own conduct and that it had more to do with the fact that Sky-Eagle was facing 13 charges from the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Alvin White
Florian Martin
Houston fire union President Alvin White believes his predecessor made claims of being threatened to distract from his conduct.

In an email, the former president denied the allegation and said he had also filed about 17 allegations against IAFF board members, "just like court: we both made our claims."

Sky-Eagle said he felt threatened after some union members seemed to plan taking back a union-owned truck from him.

A post from one firefighter read: "I say we get a large group together, with a spare key, and go get it."

It was a private Facebook group, which Sky-Eagle had no access to, but one member shared the post with him.

Sky-Eagle stated he was afraid a mob was going to come and take the truck away from him.

The accused argued they were not serious and just upset that the former union president refused to give the truck back even though the board had asked him to return it because he no longer worked out of the union office.

In an email, Sky-Eagle said he planned to return the truck and did so after having a flat tire fixed.

Of the five firefighters the city disciplined after Sky-Eagle complained, four appealed.

In one case, the arbitrator agreed that the city's social media policy was violated, but said it did not amount to a threat. He reduced the discipline to a written warning.

Another case is pending.

Mayor Annise Parker said the city is reviewing the two cases where the arbitrators found no wrongdoing and may appeal. And she defended the city's investigation.

"We have a duty and obligation to investigate it and try to resolve it," Parker said.

There had long been tension between Sky-Eagle and other union members who felt he didn't represent them well.

The former president negotiated a labor contract with the city, which was consequently rejected by 93 percent of union members.

He also sued the IAFF without the approval of membership.