KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City, Kansas, Fire Department and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas, could soon be facing legal action.
International Association of Fire Fighters Union General President Ed Kelly penned a letter to Mayor Tyrone Garner and UG Commissioners on Tuesday.
In the letter, Kelly said he's received reports that KCK Fire Chief Michael Callahan has allegedly attempted to violate the first amendment rights of members of IAFF Local 64.
The letter describes a "kiss the ring" management style where "positions of power are reserved for friends and sycophants, promotions are withheld in retaliation for criticism, and employees are publicly belittled in demonstrations of authority."
Last Tuesday, members of IAFF Local 64, who work for KCKFD, protested working conditions and department leadership.
"I have received that Fire Chief Michael Callahan has attempted to interfere with, restrain, coerce, and retaliate against members of the Kansas City, Kansas Professional Firefighters Association, IAFF Local 64, (KCK Local 64) for exercising their First Amendment rights," Kelly said in the letter.
In response, leadership officials from KCKFD said the IAFF Local 64's claims were unsubstantiated.
Kelly also accused the UG of not doing anything to address concerns of union members who voted "no confidence" against Chief Callahan in January 2021.
IAFF Local 64 also recently voted no confidence against KCK Deputy Fire Chief Jack Andrade.
Kelly said he's instructed the IAFF's general counsel to closely monitor IAFF Local 64's first amendment rights.
He also demanded Garner and UG Commissioners to take action to protect members of IAFF Local 64.
"Should the Unified Government choose not to engage on this pressing issue, the IAFF will take appropriate legal action to protect its members’ rights – up to, and including, litigation," Kelly said in the letter.
KSHB 41 I-Team reporter Sarah Plake has reached out to the UG and KCKFD for comment.
A UG spokesperson sent KSHB 41 the following statement:
"As an employer, the Unified Government must uphold a zero-tolerance policy for workplace violence and discrimination. This is essential to a safe and reputable workplace that serves such a diverse community. As the Interim County Administrator during a pivotal moment in our organization’s timeline, I am actively assessing our workplace culture, training, and systems to prepare the Unified Government for its next 25 years. While action has been taken to understand and provide a response to past claims, we are looking across the organization to ensure we have the policies, processes, and resources to support our employees and managers in a safe work environment.
“Throughout the summer, I will be sharing the findings of several critical assessments with Unified Government elected leadership and staff as part of our reimagining of the Unified Government, an initiative we call UG Forward (wycokck.org/UGForward). Never before in the 25 year history of the Unified Government has such an effort been undertaken to understand and identify centers of excellence and opportunities for improvement. The assessments will help us identify quick wins as well as opportunities for more long-term efficiencies, cost saving measures, and needed investment in our workforce. I look forward to working with the IAFF Local 64 as we plan for the future of the Unified Government.”