The International Association of Firefighters is alleging a pattern of abuse against local firefighters who unionized and were named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
The language of the release says union firefighters have been “unfairly singled out for retaliatory discipline,” and lists several incidents involving firefighters who have joined the union.
It states IAFF Chapter Vice President Mike Williams was suspended on April 6 for a week after allegedly asking a non-union firefighter to join the union while at a fire station.
It says firefighter Mike Meginnis was issued a written reprimand on March 24 for being disrespectful to Captain Vic McCaskill.
It also says IAFF Chapter President Robbie Barber was suspended for a week on April 26, and Treasurer Rodney Gandy was terminated the same day, after each allegedly failed to respond to a call while off-duty.
It states union members Troy Sorrell, Gus Bellamy and Chuck Bowden each received a one-day suspension after reporting to the station instead of the scene during a fire call.
They reported to the station instead of the scene due to instructions heard over the radio, the release says.
In addition, the release alleges the department’s two non-union fire fighters have not been disciplined since the lawsuit was filed, and have been offered double compensation by the chief to cover the shifts of those suspended.
“Yes, there have been some personnel actions taken,” City Manager Monty Crump said. “We don’t take this type of thing lightly, and the city only takes action when it has cause.”
Because of pending litigation, the city is limited in the extent of information it can share with the public.
Rockingham Fire Chief Charles Gardner is heavily criticized for “tyrannical” and “un-American” behavior by union representatives in the release.
“Chief Gardner’s pattern of abusive behavior is in retaliation for this decision by Rockingham firefighters to form a union,” 12th District Vice President of the IAFF Larry Osborne said. “Forming a union is a legally protected right in our country. Abusive retaliation against workers for any reason is not legal.”
A past case involving an assault charge during Gardner’s stint as a building inspector is being cited by the union. The charge was dismissed in 1997.
“Chief Gardner is a classic bully and incapable of serving in a management capacity,” Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics of North Carolina President David Anders said. “In light of his history and overt threats, it is incumbent on the City of Rockingham to step in and keep its firefighters safe from the chief who was sworn to protect them.”