PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -
The city of Port St. Lucie is struggling to make ends meet. Part of the plan to save included cutting jobs last month, but six former police department employees say the city went about cutting the wrong way.
Four police officers and two civilian employees were sidelined, fired to save money.
"Worry about Port St. Lucie. The police department's in a bad place right now," said Steven Claus, a former Port St. Lucie police captain.
Now, the six people, including Claus, are suing the city and its manager, Greg Oravec. They want damages and their jobs back.
They say their firings last month violated the city charter, state Sunshine Laws and the Florida Constitution.
"You can't hide from the truth. He needs to be very prepared, as does the rest of the city," said Don Kryak, a former Port St. Lucie police captain who's also suing.
Claus and Kryak worked together almost 30 years at the department. Claus even field trained Kryak, when he was still a teenager.
The men argue cutting the police department's command staff does more than cut the budget.
"Your command staff's out here, instead of in the police department, making sure you're safe," said Claus.
The city manager says reorganization is necessary and that his moves save about $2 million dollars that can be used to hire more patrol officers. Fired officers dispute that argument, and now the legal sparks fly.
" You have to make tough decisions if you're going to be a leader," said Oravec. "If they want to fight, then let's fight."
There's no word yet on when the case will go to court.
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