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Things are not going well between Houston firefighters and Mayor Sylvester Turner. The Houston Chronicle reports that at two recent public events firefighters snubbed the mayor by not shaking his hand. One event was part of National Night Out where Turner reportedly yelled “I am still your boss” and stormed off after a firefighter refused a handshake.
The most recent incident took place at a Houston Rockets game on Thursday. It prompted Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 341 President Marty Lancton to write a letter accusing Mayor Turner of making threats that violate state law. Local 341 had campaigned for Turner but have since parted ways over pension changes and other issues. The Chronicle reports Lancton is supported in this by Gaylon Davenport who is president of the Houston Black Firefighters Association.
“If I’m going down and I’m shaking everybody’s hand, I’m shaking the firefighters’ hands, and then I get to this firefighter and this firefighter refuses to shake my hand, number one it’s not professional,” he said. “Do I ignore that? I think not. … What the president of the association is saying is that there should be no discipline taken against any firefighter that chooses not to engage with their mayor. Well, if you’re in uniform, on duty, whether it’s in a second job at a civic engagement, there is a code of conduct and you should adhere to it if you want to be a city employee.”
“You can’t tolerate that. And the association shouldn’t tolerate it either,” Turner said. “Because once you allow that to happen, you have lost total control of your force. And again 99% of employees are fine, but for those who choose to operate on that level, they should not be a part of the city of Houston employee base.”
Lancton said a fire inspector had been working at the Rockets game Thursday, which Turner was attending. The firefighter – who has been with the department for 15 years – saw the mayor approaching and tried to walk away.
“You don’t walk away from me,” he said Turner yelled, threatening to make sure he wouldn’t be able to work security at the stadium in the future, and making him give his identification details to several cops working on his security detail.