Savannah Fire captains file lawsuit against the city - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Savannah Fire captains file lawsuit against the city

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

With a class action lawsuit now filed against the City of Savannah, the attorney for Savannah Fire Dept. captains said those city employees tried to work things out with city hall over pay discrepancies but were ignored.

The lawsuit claims some veteran city fire employees are being paid as much as $20,000 less than newly promoted supervisors in the same position.

City officials said they are still looking through the lawsuit and will review it and address it in court. The city claims they have addressed some of the concerns already.

It's the way the city handled the concerns, which the attorney said forced the captains to take action.

"We hated having to file this lawsuit, but it was the only way to focus the city on this issue," said John Hafemann, attorney for the fire captains. 

Hafemann, speaking by phone with WTOC, said the 50 captains brought their concerns about pay discrepancies in those supervisor positions to city hall.

"For the last 6 months these guys have been trying to meet with the city manager and city attorney, and using their chain of command to try to resolve this issue, and they have been completely ignored," Hafemann said.

Legal documents show the city has used a formula for supervisors where they make a percentage above their highest paid subordinate.

"It used to be 7.5 percent more, and then Miss Cutter reduced that to five percent," Hafemann said.

However, those captains said the formula wasn't being used.

"In order to save money, at least the last three years, everyone just totally ignored this policy. Totally ignored it," he said.

City spokesman Bret Bell told WTOC the city has addressed the pay issues, but doing it individually creates discrepancies. The lawsuit contends it is city management causing bigger problems.

"Now the city is enforcing this moving forward but hasn't made it retroactive," Hafemann said.

The lawyer used several examples of some veteran supervisors- paid by the city, making thousands less than newly promoted firefighters, including one captain who will be acting as the class representative.

"He makes $49,000 a year and he's been a captain nine years. The most recent captain to get promoted started off at $63,000. It's just not right. It's not fair," Hafemann said. "The last thing I got from the city manager was she was too busy getting ready for St. Patrick's Day to discuss this issue and that's why we filed the lawsuit."

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