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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – A battle at the ballot box about how Arlington’s fire department is controlled has ignited passionate debate. And one former firefighter says it has led to threats from a state union official.

“That’s my opinion that we don’t need civil service here in Arlington,” said retired Arlington fire fighter Mark Gist.

Gist said he expected his stance against Prop 2 at the ballot box to draw criticism from fire fighters who support adopting state civil service rules for the department. But he did not expect what he calls a threat from a vice president of the Texas State Association of Firefighters.

Gist says the vice-president, Curtis Dunn, sent texts which read in part:

“I will do everything in my power to make sure none of my friends or family ever but (sic) anything from you… it is now my goal to hurt your business.

It concludes, “Good luck traitor.”

Dunn is not only an Association of Fire Fighters member, he’s also a retired Arlington firefighter who served with Gist.

“That was like a kick in the gut, you know,” Gist said. “Pretty shocked.”

“After someone has their opinion of which way they want to vote on an issue, you ought to be able to express yourself one way or the other, both sides of the story. And, so this was — I can’t believe someone wants to hurt my family’s business just because of the way I want to vote.”

Dunn declined an interview but did say he’s a third generation fire fighter and passionate about the issue. But he says he was emotional when he sent the texts and he regrets the effects they’ve had.

A representative of the local association of fire fighters which supports Prop 2 said Dunn’s comments were done as an individual and he is not associated with their group.