Muskogee officials delay sex harassment probe after grievance filed

Wednesday, April 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Muskogee officials have suspended an investigation into sexual harassment allegations by the city's first female firefighter after the local firefighters union filed a grievance.

City of Muskogee personnel director Les Weston said Tuesday that the investigation into Amy McKinney's complaint is delayed until the union's grievance can be heard by the Civil Service Commission. No date has been set for that hearing.

``All interviews have stopped,'' Weston said. ``We requested people to come in, and they (union leaders) have told those people not to participate.''

In the grievance letter, dated Monday, the union alleged that officials are not following their own policies in the probe and are retaliating against an unnamed firefighter who filed a subsequent complaint.

``We are requesting that the city cease and desist any investigation until there has been compliance . 5/8. 5/8. (and) cease and desist from retaliation against union members,'' the letter read.

The union's attorney, D.D. Hayes, said the grievance was filed because the city is violating its own policies by allegedly not giving the accused firefighters the details of the accusations against them.

``It's standard procedure to tell people what they're accused of,'' Hayes said. ``He (Weston) thinks he can operate an inquisition. That's not the way we do things in this country.''

Weston said the union wants to negotiate the terms of interviews with its members.

``Our opinion is that they are not subject to negotiation,'' he said. ``In an internal administrative investigation, there's a lot of history that says employees basically have to cooperate.''

McKinney became the department's first female firefighter in November. Three weeks ago, she filed complaints alleging that she was unfairly harassed about her job performance because of her gender.

McKinney was not available for comment.

Her father, Tom McKinney, is a longtime firefighter who was president of the local union before resigning in protest of his daughter's treatment earlier this month.

After Amy McKinney's claim, a male firefighter filed a complaint against Tom McKinney. City investigators were trying to determine whether that second complaint was filed ``in good faith,'' Weston said, when the union told its members to quit talking.

Hayes denied that the union's decision to file the grievance was tied to the issue of the validity of the complaint filed against Tom McKinney.

Amy McKinney is not a member of the union. Her family said she tried to join but was rebuffed.

Tom McKinney said he believes the problems he and his daughter are facing are the result of a handful of firefighters unwilling to accept a woman among their ranks.

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