SERB files suit against city, tries to halt elimination of Youngstown Fire Battallion chiefs

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SERB says conditioning radios for firefighters is interfering with the Ohio Revised Code

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The State Employee Relations Board is asking a judge in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to issue a restraining order against Youngstown to halt the elimination of three battalion chiefs in the fire department.

The request for the order was filed Thursday. The request was filed on behalf of Youngstown Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 312

The request says that after several attempts by the department to make improvements to the radio system for firefighters, the city finally agreed in October to make the improvements by using the elimination of two battalion chiefs from the department to fund them.

The radio system was purchased in 2017, and the department has been asking to fix the glitches since then, the request said.

Funding the improvements by eliminating the battalion chiefs is a way for the city to get back at the union for filing a grievance over the radio system, the request added.

That retaliation is a violation of state law, the request says.

City Law Director Jeff Limbian gave his reaction to the suit on Friday, calling it “odd.”

“We think it’s odd because they’re asking the city to be restrained from doing something that’s already been done. The legislature, our city council, has already voted and eliminated those three positions through attrition, so there’s no immediate harm. There’s nothing to restrain,” he said.

Charlie Smith, president of the Firefighters’ union, said the fact that SERB is getting involved shows that the city’s decisions may put firefighters and residents in danger.

The elimination of the battalion chiefs has been a sore spot for the firefighters union because they saw battalion chiefs provide crucial functions at fire scenes that ensure firefighter safety.

At a major fire, the first battalion chief to respond is in charge of fighting the fire and directing firefighters to where they are needed and to call for additional resources if needed.

The second battalion chief to arrive is in charge of firefighter safety, and the person monitors conditions to ensure that firefighters are not trapped in any dangerous situations.

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