The firefighters have a new enemy

It’s a renewable resource.

CM David Robinson

Houston City Councilman David Robinson said he returned $7,500 in campaign contributions from the city’s firefighter union because of ethical concerns.

Robinson was one of two council members who said they received text messages from Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association President Marty Lancton asking them to return campaign contributions from the union’s political action committee. They said they received those texts after city council last month voted to send 60-day layoff notices to 220 firefighters to help offset the costs of implementing Proposition B, the voter-approved charter amendment that requires the city to pay firefighters the same salaries as police of corresponding rank and seniority. Robinson and Councilmember Martha Castex-Tatum, who said she also was asked to return her donation, voted for the layoff notices.

In an April 29 letter to Lancton, Robinson wrote that he believes it is “improper” to keep the donations he has received from the HPFFA’s political action committee since 2016 if they were intended to sway his votes on issues related to Prop B. The letter said a check for $7,500 was enclosed.

“I also did not realize, until I read your text, that you expected a certain vote or outcome in exchange for those donations,” Robinson wrote. “I find it highly inappropriate for your organization to expect that I would take specific actions on your behalf in return for contributions.”


Though the requests to return political contributions are not illegal, they could backfire on the fire union, Rice University political scientist Mark Jones said.

For the most part, Jones said, the union rarely has acted in ways that could turn public opinion against them. The requests, he said, could make people view the union is “corrupt” and “petty,” while elected officials such as Robinson appear above the influence of outside interests.

“This time they overstepped, and they’re the ones looking bad, not the elected officials,” he said. “If anything, it makes elected officials look good.”

There’s more to the exchange, including Lancton’s response, which I’ll leave to you to discover for yourself. Robinson has one Republican opponent so far, though there’s plenty of time for others to arise. He’s also got $200K in the bank, which I daresay made returning that one check a bit easier. As for the firefighters, it’s all fun and games until the people you pick fights with win re-election. We’ll see how that goes.

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6 Responses to The firefighters have a new enemy

  1. David Fagan says:

    Is this just as legal as asking families of line of duty death fire fighters to pay back those fallen fire fighters’ medical expenses? Off course, the fallen fire fighters’ medical expenses were not covered on this blog, and this Robinson story was just about dead. I was wondering how the Houston Chronicle would allow such direct reproduction of their material.


    Robinson’s campaign finance director is Jack S. Blanton Jr., son of His name’s sake who was a former board member of Greater Houston Partnership, philanthropist, and really big oil guy. So, Robinson is part of the opposition which already existed and not really a ‘new enemy’.

  2. Jules says:

    Paragraph, hilarious and much easier to read.

  3. C.L. says:

    David, in answer to your question, yes, it’s just as legal.

  4. David Fagan says:

    Well, I wonder, what makes this issue more important than the other if both are equally legal, so much so as to comment on it?

  5. Bill_Daniels says:

    The FF’s asking for their money back is perfectly legal, but it sure smacks of pay-to-play gone wrong. Hey, we gave you money because we thought you were going to give US money. You didn’t give us money. We want the $$ we gave you back. Not really any other way to spin that.

    I just hope y’all didn’t give to Bernie Sanders, because as everyone knows….NO REFUNDS!

  6. Jennifer says:

    People are really sick of politicians screwing up our public safety!

Comments are closed.