Kingsport firefighters, police endorse Munsey, Cain, Shupe

Matthew Lane • May 1, 2007 at 11:36 AM

KINGSPORT - Vice Mayor Larry Munsey and candidates Ray Cain and Jantry Shupe have received the endorsement from the Kingsport Firefighters Association and the Kingsport Coalition of Police.

The KFA and the KCP held a press conference Tuesday afternoon at the KFA headquarters to announce their endorsements for the May 15 city election. Kevin Mitchell, spokesman for the KFA, explained the reasons why these candidates were selected.

"We looked (at Munsey's) record and his commitment with what we've done in the past. He's a man of his word, and he has supported public safety in the past. We felt it was only fair to support him," Mitchell said.

As for Cain and Shupe, Mitchell said it came down to how they approached some of the issues concerning the KFA and KCP.

"Just in how they approached some of our issues and their commitment to sitting down and discussing those issues in earnest and at least giving us some solutions to some of the problems really is what prompted our members to endorse them."

All three candidates attended Tuesday's press conference, calling the endorsement an honor and a privilege.

"You can rest assured, I appreciate the endorsement and you can continue to count on Larry Munsey to be a strong supporter," Munsey said.

The KFA and KCP did not officially endorse Mayor Dennis Phillips in the May 15 city election due to there being no opposition in the mayoral race, Bobby Schmutzler, president of the KCP, said both organizations fully support Phillips and his efforts to guide Kingsport to a bright future.

"We hope that we will continue to have open communications with Mayor Phillips and look forward to working with him and the BMA to continue to promote positive employee relations for the betterment of the citizens and the city of Kingsport," Schmutzler said.

The KFA has about 78 members and represents about 92 percent of the eligible firefighters employed with the city. The KCP has 75 members.

Mitchell said one of the main issues of the KFA and KCP is the city's grievance process. Mitchell cited the Burk Murray situation as an example.

Officer Murray was fired in October 2005 by then City Manager Ray Griffin after an investigation revealed Murray, while armed and in his police uniform, threatened another man in the Eastman parking lot. Griffin overruled Police Chief Mark Addington's punishment of suspending Murray for two days.

Kingsport's grievance process called for the fired employee (Murray) to appeal the decision to the city manager. At one time Kingsport had a grievance policy where the fired employee would appeal to a grievance officer (disinterested third party), who would hear the appeal and make a recommendation to the city manager.

Phillips recently made a remark about the city revisiting its grievance policy.

"The Burk Murray situation showed a huge flaw in our grievance policy. So hopefully when these candidates are elected, that can be one of the things that they focus on," Mitchell said.

As for the KFA specifically, Mitchell said one of their main issues is with staffing levels.

City Manager John Campbell has proposed adding six new firefighters in the 2008 fiscal year and three in the 2009 fiscal year to staff a new fire station in the Rock Springs community. Mitchell said this would give the fire department the minimal amount to open that station.

"We're building new stations, we're growing as a city, and having the proper amount of firefighters on the trucks to better serve the citizens is probably our number one issue," Mitchell said.

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