MOBERLY — The Moberly city administration refused to retract a written reprimand to a fire department employee or rescind an interoffice memorandum sent within the department.

The refusal came in a response to a letter from the International Association of Fire Fighters, which claimed that Moberly firefighters were having their First Amendment rights violated by city policies.

The reprimand was a standard personnel procedure and the memo was simply a reminder to firefighters to not engage in political activity while on city time, the response stated. No free speech violations were made in either case, it added.

Moberly firefighter Seth Truesdell was wrongfully reprimanded for giving his opinion on the installation of a new garage door at the Fire Station No. 1 to the Historic Preservation Commission and a city building inspector, according to a letter sent by IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger.

The city’s response letter, written by attorney Michael Gallagher, stated that Truesdell called Building Inspector Aaron Decker and said he and other firefighters were opposed to changing the fire door, and inquired how to stop the change with the Historic Preservation Commission.

The firefighters preferred the old doors, which did not cause them to feel “cooped up” and created a “brighter” work environment, the letter reads.

“If the individual were speaking as a citizen regarding a matter of public concern, the speech would be protected,” Gallagher wrote. “However, the firefighter in this instance was speaking for the firefighters about the aesthetics of his work environment and not as a citizen addressing a matter of public concern.”

Decker felt he was being pressured to overrule the decision to change the firehouse doors, according to the city’s letter.

Truesdell also contacted members of the Historic Preservation Commission in an attempt to circumvent the decision made by Moberly Fire Chief George Albert, Gallagher wrote.

Any fire department employee who has an issue with the building and structures of the fire department should address matters to Albert, the letter states.

“We believe the disciplinary write-up given to Mr. Truesdell is an appropriate exercise of discipline in this instance,” Gallagher wrote. “(The IAFF) suggestion that the employee was merely exercising his First Amendment rights … misses the mark.”

The initial letter from the IAFF also references a memo sent to members of the fire department. The memo, written by Albert, refers to a city policy that prohibits all city employees from participating in local political activity while on duty, in uniform or on city property.

The memo was not sent in response to any specific incident or individual, but just as a reminder of the rules, City Manager Brian Crane said. Because IAFF Local 2671 had not heavily participated in prior local elections, the memo was sent to make sure all employees were aware of that particular policy, Crane said.

“We were seeing that the union, for the first time that we’ve ever seen, was starting to get involved in elections with their endorsement of the candidates,” Crane said. “... (The memo was) just saying, ‘Hey, make sure you follow the policy, and on our time, don’t conduct in these activities.' … It was a way for (Albert) to make sure they didn’t get in trouble and realize what the policy says.”

City administration has no sway on an employee’s political activity while they are not working, including candidate endorsements or yard signs, Crane said.