Judge delays ruling on Houston pay parity lawsuit

December 15, 2018

A state district judge on Friday extended until next week a temporary restraining order blocking the implementation of a voter-approved charter amendment granting pay parity to Houston firefighters.

The court action will further delay the next step in a messy legal imbroglio between Houston’s two major public safety unions — the Houston Police Officers Union and the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association.

Police union officials sought the TRO on Nov. 30, when they sued the firefighter’s union and the city of Houston, while seeking an injunction to block implementation of the “Proposition B” charter amendment, arguing it amounts to an unconstitutional amendment to the city charter.

The decision came after nearly two hours of tangled legal arguments between opposing attorneys over whether Prop B contradicted various state laws and testimony from Police Chief Art Acevedo and City Finance Director Tantri Erlinawati-Emo.

The 157th District’s outgoing judge, Randy Wilson, said he wasn’t prepared to rule on the injunction, but said he would do so by the middle of next week.

City Attorney Ronald Lewis said the judge’s action was “appropriate.”

“It’s a serious matter of consequence for all parties involved,” Lewis said. “The firefighters believe they have a position, and the city has a need to administer the correct law. That is our responsibility and function. The court’s, whose job is to determine what the correct law is, to make sure we do what is correct.”

HPFFA President Marty Lancton said he is looking forward to next week’s ruling.

“This is a long process, and right now we are waiting for the judge to rule,” he said. “He’s been very attentive to the things that were discussed today, and we’re looking forward to the judge’s ruling next week.”

St. John Barned-Smith covers public safety for the Houston Chronicle. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Send tips to st.john.smith@chron.com.

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