Tyranny reigns supreme in Trenton.
That is one conclusion that can be drawn in reviewing court documents filed in the case of Ettenger, et al v. Feigenbaum, et al, otherwise known as the case of the Palmer administration trying to discipline city firefighters who spoke out against a fire staffing plan that would have put the city at risk.
The case reads like something out of Soviet Russia.
The group of firefighters, upon learning of former Business Administrator Jane Feigenbaum’s plan to eliminate 13 fire captain positions from the department, decided to exercise their constitutional First Amendment rights and speak out against the scheme earlier this fall.
They did so by identifying themselves as representatives of the two local firefighter unions on a press release announcing a press conference at the public atrium area of Fire Headquarters on Perry Street. They held the conference, without incident, for approximately 45 minutes on the date quoted on the release.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
Apparently the negative comments regarding the potential public safety danger carried with Ms. Feigenbaum’s staffing plan caused Mayor Douglas H. Palmer and the business administrator to fly into a rage.
As a result, Ms. Feigenbaum contacted acting Fire Director Hank Gliottone and told him to bring the firemen up on charges or face termination himself, according to the lawsuit, all because the three men properly used free speech to question a plan that would have put the entire City of Trenton at risk.
The disciplinary charges chosen to warrant punishment are both comical and contradictory.
In one, the city claims that one firefighter broke an archaic rule that says firemen may not wear uniforms to theaters, circuses, and other public places because it may result in free admission.
Then the city declares that the firemen misused non-public property at Fire Department headquarters for their press conference, despite the fact that the men received clearance from the acting fire director to do so.
Read it again.
Those two charges do not comport. One is about wearing a uniform in a public place and the other alleges misuse of non-public property – which is it Palmer lackeys?
Finally, among other absurdities, the city government actually misrepresents and effectively edits the contents of the press release to make it appear that the firemen identified themselves as representatives of the department, and not the union representing the rank-and-file.
Unfortunately, a large masthead on the press release clearly identifies not only the union-nature of the gathering, but also the actual titles of the unions themselves.
Trenton residents, these are the kind of people who are leading your city – people who are ready and able to suppress the most basic of all human rights in a false and vindictive manner. This kind of thing makes a lot of what you see around the city make a lot more sense.