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Retired firefighter loses pay over comments on government waste

A retired firefighter thought that his legal troubles with the city of Pittsburgh were over after he settled a claim over violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. He was two days away from retirement when he noticed a crew outside of his firehouse painting new lines on the street and then stripping those lines off the very same day. He spoke to reporters who came by the firehouse asking questions about the project and expressed concerns about the use of taxpayer money.

As soon as he was officially retired he was internally cited for speaking with the media without permission. The public safety director chose to strip him of his remaining benefits, about $20,000 worth of unused sick pay, as a penalty without conducting a proper trial board hearing on the matter.

Samuel J. Cordes of this firm is representing the man in his effort to collect that sick pay. The firefighter sued the city and the public safety director that took the action against him for the sick pay as well as other damages, including emotional distress.

First amendment protections are particularly strong for speech related to matters of public concern and government activities. These protections are extended to all employees, including those working for the government. It is unacceptable for any government entity to try to use their power to suppress free speech and reasonable public criticisms of their work.

Mr. Cordes told reporters earlier this week that his client will not tolerate this type of outrageous conduct by the city "We do not allow small, petty government officials to retaliate and penalize us for exercising our First Amendment rights."

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Retired Pittsburgh firefighter Ceminara files suit over sick pay," Rich Lord, July 5, 2012.

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