Muskogee officials demote firefighter, suspend another following probe

Saturday, May 4th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Muskogee officials demoted one veteran firefighter and suspended another after concluding that a woman's sexual harassment complaint was valid.

Friday's action against Capt. Ronald Conley and Scott Curry followed a monthlong investigation into allegations by Muskogee's first female firefighter, Amy McKinney.

McKinney accused Fire Capt. Ronald Conley of treating her unfairly because of her gender. Muskogee Personnel Director Les Weston on Thursday found in her favor.

Weston also determined that firefighter Scott Curry filed his own sexual harassment claim against McKinney's father, Tom McKinney, in retaliation for her complaint.

Tom McKinney has been a firefighter for 22 years and was president of the local firefighters union before resigning in support of his daughter.

Conley, a 24-year veteran, will have to work as a driver in another station. A union official said Conley will appeal the demotion to the Civil Service Commission and may take his case to civil court.

``It's devastating to me,'' said Capt. Jack Shackelford, a union steward. ``I think he's going to fight it.''

A demotion would mean a loss of about $420 a month in pay and would affect Conley's pension because it is based on how much he earns in his last 30 months of work.

Neither McKinney, nor her father could be reached for comment. They both still work for the department.

Curry will serve a 30-day suspension for what the city called ``retaliation'' by claiming that he was sexually harassed by Tom McKinney. That claim was filed within days of Amy McKinney's complaint.

McKinney and her father said they were victims of a small group of male firefighters who were unwilling to accept a female co-worker.

``There are six or seven people causing all this crap,'' Tom McKinney has said previously. ``The majority of the men are pretty much in limbo. They're getting bashed because of a few cavemen who haven't changed their attitudes.''

Shackelford argued that McKinney was not treated any differently from other rookie firefighters.

``The job she was asked to do was not outside the norm of what anybody else had done,'' he said.

The firefighters union had filed a grievance in the investigation, advising its members not to be interviewed without union representation. The city denied the grievance.