Mayoral candidate holds appreciation for fire cadets stuck in hiring freeze

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee held an appreciation luncheon Sunday for the nearly two dozen Houston firefighter trainees that finished training but weren't allowed to graduate.

Buzbee, joined by city council member Mike Kubosh, handed out certificates of appreciation for the group that has been stuck at the academy since November.

The group's graduation was cancelled by Mayor Sylvester Turner amid discussions of how to pay for the implementation of the pay parity initiative known as Prop B.

Turner said it would be silly to allow the cadets to graduate, then turn around and have to lay them off.

"It would not be wise to bring on additional employees," Turner said in his Jan. 23, 2018 Mayor's report. "For example, right now in the fire department, we might simply have to turn right around and let them go."

But amid the hiring freeze implemented by Turner, nearly 200 others have been hired on by the city across 17 different departments.

RELATED: Houston's trained heroes are stuck chopping wood, pouring concrete

In an ABC13 Investigation, Ted Oberg found cadets pouring concrete and chopping wood instead of on the front lines of Houston's fire department.

Fire Chief Samuel Pena said he was paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime to current firefighters, while these cadets are waiting to either be sworn in or laid off.

"We've already lost one member of the class 'cause he says I can't hang here in limbo any longer," Buzbee said. "They feel like they're hostage because of some political fight that they have no part of."

In Houston, fire cadets are paid roughly $27,000 a year. The cadets agreed to the pay, but were told the academy would last two months. They've now been at that pay rate for five months.

Once they are deployed to a fire station, their pay would jump to at least $43,528 or more if they are EMT certified.

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