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Read between the (painted) lines

Let’s say you’re watching municipal employees at work on the street. A first set of them paints a fresh set of lines on the street. A little while later, a second crew comes along and tears up the street — freshly painted lines and all — because it’s going to be repaved.

Now, wouldn’t you want to tell somebody about what you just saw?

According to David Cerminara, he’s being punished for telling about the ridiculous scene that played out in front of him.

Cerminara, a retired Pittsburgh fire captain, was interviewed on local television about the paint-and-smash routine on May 30, two days before he retired. And now, he asserts in a lawsuit, the city is withholding 110 days’ worth of accumulated sick leave — worth about $20,000 — because he helped embarrass the government.

Because Cerminara was still employed by the fire department when the interview occurred, the city says he violated rules for speaking with the media.

A spokeswoman for the city, Joanna Doven, told the Associated Press: “The procedures in the fire bureau are that no firefighter talks to the media without getting approval. It is grounds for discipline.” However, she also termed the suit “baseless and frivolous.”

So, if it’s Firefighters Night at a Pirates game and a TV crew asks some of the firefighters in attendance whether they think the Pirates can win their division this year, they’d get in trouble for answering?

Cerminara contends the problem is he’s angered his former boss, Public Safety Director Michael Huss. Apparently, not only didn’t Huss like that Cerminara talked to the TV people, but he also didn’t like that the ex-captain refused to keep working so he could be compelled to attend a disciplinary hearing.

“When it was pointed out to defendant Huss that he could not order a person who no longer worked for either him or the City of Pittsburgh to remain on duty, to attend a hearing or indeed to not speak as a private citizen on a matter of public concern, he became enraged,” the lawsuit states.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

One comment

  1. Just for the record, Ms Doven is Director Huss’s wife.