E-Mail Forum
Strike Three For Fire Captain In Campaign Uniform Violation
October 29, 2001
Fire Captain and Firefighters Local 188 President Jim Russey and an unidentified police officer both appear in uniform in the larger-than-life Nat Bates signs at the intersections of San Pablo Avenue and Castro Ranch Road, Hilltop Drive, just east of Interstate 80 and at San Pablo Avenue and the Richmond Parkway.

The TOM BUTT E-FORUM of October 27 carried a copy of a letter of reprimand sent to Russey reminding him that he was in violation of a memo sent to him and all other City employees in April of 2001. It reviewed Section 3(d) of Article XII of the City Personnel Rules, Section 11 of Article XIII of the Richmond City Charter and Government Code Section 3206, which prohibit an officer or employee of the City from participating in political activity while in uniform.

The city manager and fire chief notified Russey that around mid-October of this year two political mailers with pictures of him in his Richmond Fire Department uniform were sent to the voters of Richmond. Their letter to Russey stated, “The purpose of this letter is to again remind you of this prohibition and to inform you that any further violation of this prohibition will result in disciplinary action being taken against you.”

While I appreciated the city manager and fire chief taking this action, which is unprecedented, others were not so kind. One E-FORUM recipient wrote:

“While I applaud the City manager for finally enforcing a city policy, does a letter of warning constitute any kind of punishment? From what the City Manager wrote, Captain Russey was warned in April that this was not to be allowed (warning #1). He then went ahead and violated these orders twice and the best the City manager can do is warn him (warning #2) that continuing to violate city policies might result in disciplinary action? My bet is that Captain Russey is quaking in his boots even as your read this. He's probably having trouble sleeping and he has to be off his feed. he really has to be worried that warning #3 and #4 might be harshly worded and warning #5 might use capital letters for emphasis.”

“Thank goodness we have a law and order City Manager that commands the respect of city employees in positions of senior management.”

Another E-FORUM correspondent wrote: “Upbraided? I would call it a slap on the pinky! Employees were informed in April by memo about this sort of thing, and this person chose to ignore it. In his memo to Russey, the city manager states that ‘further action will be taken for any future violations.’ What about this violation. It is the city manager's job to uphold the city charter.”

Now we find that Russey has, once again violated the law and disregarded the April memo. What is the proposed course of action? City Hall informs me that they intend to dispatch public employees to remove the signs. What happened to the threatened disciplinary action? They say Russey was on duty and only recently received the recent reprimand. Does that relieve him of strike three? We’ll see.