UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. (KSDK) – Six firefighters could lose their jobs over a photo. The city says it's investigating whether the photo violates campaign laws. But the firefighters promise they followed all the rules.
The battle played out on Election Day. The firefighters have been in contract disputes with the city for more than a year. Leading up to the elections, they got involved in political campaign for the candidates they support. But, now their involvement could leave them unemployed.
Jen Stuhlman has been a University City firefighter for 13 years.
"It's an incredibly rewarding job," Stuhlman said.
That's one of the reasons she's afraid of losing it, after posing in a campaign photo with a city council candidate.
"We all understood what the law allowed us to do," Stuhlman said.
The law allows first responders to "engage in political activity while off duty and not in uniform."
"We went to a neighboring community, off duty, out of uniform," Stuhlman said.
The city has specific guidelines defining a uniform, to which the firefighters say they paid special attention. Even so, one of those pictured claims the Fire Chief told him they would all be without a job by Friday.
The city manager of University City tells NewsChannel 5 none of the firefighters have been fired. But, he confirms the city is investigating whether the picture violates the law. And, he says there is a possibility the investigation could end with jobs lost.
"It depends on a variety of factors. We would take a look at the entire situation before we make a decision like that," said City Manager Lehman Walker.
"We just feel like this is an outrageous abuse of power by the city," said a spokesman for the local firefighter union, Kurt Becker. "I do feel like there is a very strong intent on the city's part to try and stifle their participation in this election process."
And so, the firefighters are vowing to keep fighting.
"This is where I have invested my adult life and where I planned to invest the rest of my career," Stuhlman said.
Late Tuesday, NewsChannel 5 learned all six firefighters received notice that they were to report to the city's human resources department Wednesday morning. We will continue to keep you updated as this story develops.