HFD Union Leader Says Department Has No Proof To Fire 3 Firefighters

The union that represents Houston's firefighters says it will help three of its members fight to get their jobs back. The department fired the men over a racial epithet that was written on a patient's electronic medical record. As David Pitman reports, the union says the department has no way to prove who's responsible for the act.

Jeff Caynon is the president of the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.  He says, as an African-American, he was offended to learn that someone used an ambulance computer terminal to enter a racial epithet in a patient's EMS report.  But he says he's even more troubled by the investigation into the matter that resulted in three firefighters losing their jobs. 

"And in this case, it's not even a situation where they can say 'we've narrowed it down and it's one of these guys.'  They don't have any proof.  They believe that it's one of these three guys.  And they're essentially saying 'we're OK with firing two innocent ones to get the one who did it.'  The truth is, they can't tell you if any one of them did it."

Caynon says the signature on the EMS report in question does not match the handwriting of anyone in the firefighters' unit.  As the three appeal their dismissals, Caynon says the union will provide them with an attorney.

"We feel very strongly  that once someone sensible takes a look at the facts that we'll get these gentlemen their jobs back."

Caynon says the appeals process could take as long as six months.  We placed a call to the office of Acting Houston Fire Department Chief Rick Flanagan for his response to Caynon's remarks.  Our call was not returned.

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...