Appeals court partially rules against YFD firefighter union in mandamus case

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The court said city ordinances do not call for authorities to appoint independent investigative bodies

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The 7th District Court of Appeals has ruled that a request by the union representing city firefighters asking for the city to appoint an independent body to investigate a claim against Fire Chief Barry Finley is not a valid one.

In a ruling Thursday, the court said that city ordinances do not allow for city officials to appoint such boards.

The court also gave Youngstown Professional Firefighters IAAF Local 312 30 days to respond to the city’s request that the second part of their writ of mandamus they filed asking for an investigation into a remark Finley made to another firefighter be dismissed.

The Local in August had asked the appeals court to issue a writ of mandamus to force the city to investigate what they said was a threat Finley made to another firefighter after the firefighter acted up at a meeting and swore when Finley announced the city was eliminating two battalion chiefs, as well as asking for the payment of attorneys fees and other costs because the city failed to provide the investigative report “within a reasonable period of time.”

The union also sued the city over that, claiming the chiefs were eliminated because the city wanted to get back at the union. SERB ruled in the union’s favor, as did a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court judge Thursday. The city has yet to comment on that ruling.

The union’s request comes after an October 2019 hearing Finley had with the firefighter, Patrick Holcomb, who the city said had been disrespectful during Finley’s announcement about the battalion chiefs.

The city says the entire writ should be dismissed because an investigation into the incident was completed by the Law Department in February 2020. The ruling said that the city told Holcomb Feb. 28, 2020, the interview he gave to investigators was ready for him to review for any corrections or objections.

Holcomb did not inform the law department until June 3 that he objected to part of the interview, the ruling said.

Appellate Judge Cheryl Waite dissented in part with the ruling by her colleagues, saying she believes the writ of mandamus should be dismissed in its entirety. She said the only reason the process has dragged on is because of the union’s delay in giving their response or objections to the law department’s investigation.

She did, however, agree with the first part of the ruling.

The other two judges who ruled were Appellate Judges David D’Apolito and Gene Donofrio.

Charlie Smith, president of the YFD union, released the following statement on Friday:

“Myself and the rest of Local 312 are disappointed to learn of the ruling today. We are confident in Pat Holcomb, and we were hopeful that he would be awarded a third-party investigator. That being said, we are still optimistic that the outcome will rule in Pat’s favor, and we will continue to support him through the entirety of this process,” he said.

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