Paxton challenges city's labor agreement with firefighter union

AUSTIN - Attorney General Ken Paxton has intervened in a lawsuit filed against the City of Austin, challenging the city’s labor agreement with the Austin Firefighters Association, his office announced Tuesday.

Paxton’s office said the agreement with the firefighters association allows for “release time” and therefore allows firefighters to work for the union at taxpayer expense. KVUE reported in September that the lawsuit claims the agreement violates the Texas Constitution’s gift clause provision.

“Under the agreement, taxpayers are paying approximately three full-time firefighters each year to do nothing but engage in union business, including engaging in partisan political activity on behalf of the union and against the interests of taxpayers,” Paxton’s office said in their release.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 7 by the Texas Public Policy Foundation in conjunction with the Goldwater Institute. Robert Henneke, General Counsel and Director of the Center for American Future for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, alleged that the city is paying up to 5,000 hours a year for city employees to work for the union.

“The city of Austin has abused its taxing power and with it the public trust,” Paxton said. “The city is siphoning money that should go to vital emergency services and redirecting it towards a labor union’s political activity. It is a basic tenet of democratic government that tax money be oriented towards a common good. An agreement that enriches a private organization at the cost of Austin residents’ health and safety cannot be allowed to stand.”

The Texas Public Policy Foundation released the following statement from Henneke:

“The City of Austin’s illegal release time agreement with the firefighters’ union hurts all citizens. By choosing to fund private political activities, the City diverts these resources from public safety services for Austin residents. As this practice negatively impacts the public as a whole, Plaintiffs applaud the Attorney General to intervene in order to represent the interests of all Texans.”

The Goldwater Institute issued this statement from Jonathan Riches, Director of National Litigation and General Counsel:

“The Attorney General is charged with ensuring that state and local laws are constitutional. We are delighted that the Attorney General has joined this action to challenge a practice that is not only bad public policy, but violates Texas’s Constitution.”

GO HERE to view the lawsuit filed against the city of Austin by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Goldwater Institute.

GO HERE to view the plea in intervention filed by the attorney general’s office.

(© 2016 KVUE)


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