Muskogee officials reject union grievance in sex harassment probe

Wednesday, May 1st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Muskogee city officials on Tuesday rejected a union grievance alleging that four firefighters named in a sexual harassment complaint didn't receive adequate information about the accusations against them.

The city's first and only female firefighter, Amy McKinney, filed the sexual harassment complaint against four of her colleagues a month ago.

Last week, the firefighter union filed a grievance accusing the city of inadequate information and of retaliating against a male firefighter for filing a complaint against McKinney's father on April 7.

In Muskogee Fire Chief Robert Hutson's letter to the union, he stated that the male firefighter's complaint was likely an effort to retaliate.

Muskogee Firefighters Local No. 57 last week told firefighters questioned in the city's investigation that they did not have to talk to city officials. The union also wanted a union representative present during the interviews.

City officials warned that any firefighter refusing to cooperate in the investigation could be considered insubordinate.

Each of the firefighters named in McKinney's complaint received a written notice describing the nature of the complaint on April 11, Hutson wrote union President Bryan Fuller and attorney D.D. Hayes.

A new notice was sent Tuesday, saying the initial sexual harassment complaint outlined circumstances McKinney believed contributed to a hostile work environment.

Those allegations include gender-specific verbal comments, discriminatory assignment of duties, failure to provide required guidance and false accusations. According to the letter, the allegations took place between January and March.

``If they had told us that information in the beginning, they could have saved us all a lot of trouble,'' Hayes said.

Hutson also told the union that the city's sexual harassment policy has provisions regarding retaliation against an individual who in good faith reports sexual harassment.

Firefighter Scott Curry told the Muskogee Daily Phoenix that he filed what was intended to be a harassment complaint against McKinney's father, Capt. Tom McKinney.

The allegations were made nearly seven years ago, but that Curry told the Phoenix that his recently filed complaint was not entirely retaliatory.

Curry said he decided to come forward when firefighters began looking for information against Tom McKinney, but said his allegations were true.

Tom McKinney was said he was asked to step down as president of the firefighter's union after his daughter filed her complaint. The union refused to let Amy McKinney join.

In his letter, Hutson wrote that notice was given to the complaining firefighter on April 19 that it was believed his complaint was an effort to retaliate. Curry declined comment on the April 19 letter.

Hutson also said the city's sexual harassment policy will provide an atmosphere of confidentiality during the investigative process.

A right to representation might occur on disciplinary action requiring a pre-termination hearing, the letter said. A right to representation does not exist at this level of an investigation, Hutson wrote.

Refusal to answer questions from Weston or any designated investigator of the city regarding a sexual harassment complaint is insubordinate behavior and will be dealt with in an appropriate manner, Hutson wrote.

``I cannot accept the union's request to cease and desist in a sexual harassment investigation,'' he wrote.