A Pacific Grove City councilman running for re-election complained about Monterey firefighters campaigning in that race. But the Monterey city attorney said they did nothing wrong.
City Councilman Daniel Miller last week complained that firefighters had met with mayoral candidate Bill Kampe and campaigned door-to-door for council candidate Casey Lucius while "dressed in their blues and ... white shirts."
Monterey firefighters provide fire service to Pacific Grove under a contract. The Pacific Grove council, with Miller in the majority, has requested proposals from other fire-service providers to consider a possible end to the arrangement.
Kampe is running against incumbent Mayor Carmelita Garcia. Miller and Lucius are among five candidates running for three council seats.
On Friday, Christopher Callihan, assistant city attorney in Monterey, said in an email to Miller that city firefighters did meet with Kampe and campaigned for Lucius, but did so on their own time while wearing Monterey Firefighters Association shirts.
"It is my understanding that as long as our employees are not using their Monterey Fire Department badge or uniform to enhance or promote any private enterprise or political candidate, and as long as such activity is being conducted during off-duty hours, the city has no control over those types of protected service," Callihan said.
On Monday, Miller said he wasn't satisfied with the response.
"I don't think they investigated it that well. They didn't talk to anyone but the firefighters," he said.
Miller said the firefighters' union shirts closely resemble their on-duty uniforms and could easily create a "chilling" air of authority when they engage in campaign activities.
"They should go out and wear their own shirts, say a Polo shirt with no insignia on it," he said. "And split up and go one to a house."
Miller said he has "no doubt" the campaign activity is related to the council's exploration of fire-service alternatives.
Jim Courtney, president of the firefighters association, said he was "a little upset" by Miller's allegations.
"All he had to do was come ask us and look at our shirts," he said. "I have been doing this for 10 years, and I know the rules."
Courtney said the association's campaigning for Lucius and meeting with Kampe had nothing to do with the fire-service contract.
"A lot of us live in Pacific Grove and see what's going on," he said. "We want some new, fresh ideas."
Kampe said he disclosed his "fully appropriate" meeting association members during a council meeting. He said he voted against the council majority on the fire-service issue because the council decided to study alternatives at the same time it wanted quotes from providers.
"It didn't make any sense to do that in parallel," he said.
Lucius said she knew about Miller's complaint, but said the Monterey attorney's response "pretty much takes care of the matter."
She said she was out walking with association members and could "vouch for the T-shirts they were wearing."
Kampe said he also received the firefighters association endorsement but hasn't listed it on his campaign website.