From News 14
SELMA, N.C. -- Seven Selma firefighters who were suspended for walking off the job have now been reinstated.
Town manager Stan Farmer met with members of the town's fire department behind closed doors Wednesday night, one week after 10 of the department's 25 firefighters walked off the job in protest of Farmer's plans to hire a full-time chief.
Of those 10, two resigned earlier this week and another was fired for making threats toward the mayor.
The firefighters that were reinstated can return to work Friday.
6 Selma Firefighters Reinstated After Meeting With Town Leaders
Selma - A three-hour meeting Wednesday night helped bring some closure to the recent rift among Selma Fire Department members, the mayor and the town manager.
The manager suspended 10 firefighters last week after they walked off the job in protest of his decision to replace their volunteer fire chief – who has been with the department for more than 30 years – with a paid, full-time chief.
To protest the move, the firefighters placed their gear at Mayor Charles Hester's house on June 7. They acknowledged at Wednesday night's meeting that it was not the right course of action, Town Manager Stan Farmer said. The meeting was closed to the public.
Farmer agreed to reinstate six of the 10 suspended firefighters, which will take effect Friday. Two others resigned after being suspended. Assistant Fire Chief Alvin Heath was fired after leaving threatening messages on Mayor Charles Hester's voicemail, Farmer said.
One firefighter's suspension was lifted after town leaders learned he didn't participate in the protest.
The firefighters wanted the town to hire a full-time engineer to help maintain equipment instead of hiring the chief.
On Tuesday night, the town board voted to move forward with a budget that includes a $55,000 salary for a new, full-time chief.
From The Smithfield Herald:
Seven firefighters reinstated
Two others resign, one fired after protest stunt
By Jordan Cooke, Staff Reporter
SELMA -- Six of 10 firefighters suspended for dumping their gear in the mayor's front yard will return to work on Friday.
Town Manager Stan Farmer said Mark Greene, Gary Gainey, Ronnie Lee, Ronald Stanley, Thomas Harper and Mike Kendall would return to active duty. Their reinstatement follows a three-hour hearing Wednesday evening in which Farmer said the men apologized for dumping their gear in Mayor Charles Hester's yard last Thursday.
"They acknowledged that what they did was wrong, so I went ahead and reinstated them," Farmer said. "They also acknowledged that they are town employees, that they would follow town policies and procedures and that the town manager does have the right to hire a fire chief."
Those acknowledgements came just one day after several other firemen criticized Farmer and the Town Council for budgeting money to pay a full-time fire chief. Mike Piper, Al Gaskill and Joe Moore pleaded with council members to uphold a longstanding tradition of allowing firefighters to elect their own leader.
They also asked council members to consider hiring instead a full-time engineer to maintain the department's $3 million in equipment. In the end, the Town Council voted to proceed with plans to hire a fire chief.
As for the remaining firefighters named in last week's stunt, Farmer said two had resigned. He said Billy Baker, a 12-year veteran of the department, left mostly because he lives too far from town to answer evening fire calls. Farmer said Greg Hooks, a three-year member of the department, also quit.
Meanwhile, Farmer reinstated one firefighter earlier this week after discovering that he had not taken part in last week's demonstration. Farmer said Buddy Whitley's colleagues had taken his gear with them last week to add to their numbers.
The lone firing from last week's stunt was that of assistant fire chief Alvin "T.J." Heath. Farmer said he fired Heath because because of threats made against the mayor. He said Heath had made a series of harassing phone calls within the last week to Hester's home.
No charges were expected against Heath, Farmer said. But he noted that the town could not overlook Heath's reputation. In 2005, Heath was charged with damaging property at the home of former mayor Harry Blackley. The case was dismissed in February 2006.