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Fire Service and Public Safety Legal Issues Blog by Curt Varone
Updated: 21 min 22 sec ago

Man Sues FDNY and NYPD Over Coerced Confession Following Acquittal On Arson and Murder Charges

Mon, 02/18/2019 - 20:47
A man who spent five years in prison awaiting trial on arson and murder charges is suing the city of New York, three fire marshals, four police detectives and a police sergeant who he claims illegally coerced a false confession from him.
Categories: Legal

Connecticut Medical Marijuana Patient Sues Over Rejection From Fire Academy

Sun, 02/17/2019 - 19:04
An applicant for the Bridgeport Fire Department who was rejected because a pre-employment drug test was positive for marijuana, has filed suit seeking reinstatement to the eligibility list so he can attend the state fire academy. James Bulerin III filed suit against the City of Bridgeport and Personnel Director David J. Dunn last week.
Categories: Legal

California Battalion Chief’s Termination Overturned

Thu, 02/14/2019 - 20:39
A California battalion chief who was terminated for allegedly failing to report an altercation between a captain and a patient, and lying to investigators about it, has been granted a reprieve by the California Court of Appeals. Loma Linda battalion chief Steve Jones was terminated in 2014 over an incident that occurred on January 1, 2014.
Categories: Legal

Former Miami Firefighters Charged Criminally Over Prank

Wed, 02/13/2019 - 21:51
Four Miami firefighters who were terminated in 2017 for their role in defacing photos belonging to a black fire lieutenant are now facing criminal charges related to the incident. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office filed criminal mischief charges against Harold Santana, Kevin Meizoso, Justin Rumbaugh and Alejandro Sese for their role in the September 9, 2017.
Categories: Legal

First Amendment Photography Followup

Tue, 02/12/2019 - 20:43
Today’s burning question: Regarding your post on violating the First Amendment rights of firefighters by banning picture taking while on duty, a government agency would likely have the right to ban personnel from another governmental agency from filming at their incident scene for the same reasons you mentioned that an employer can ban them, and also because of a compelling interest in maintaining the safety of the citizens and their employees. Am I missing something?
Categories: Legal

Snapschat From Fatal Fire Scene Prompts Media Request

Mon, 02/11/2019 - 07:14
A Polk County, Florida fire captain is facing tough questions about his actions at the scene of a fatal house fire last November. Loretta Pickard died in the fire on November 23, 2018. Polk County Fire Rescue Captain James Williams was suspended for sending a Snapchat video from the scene.
Categories: Legal

Retired Colorado Firefighters Sue District Over Health Insurance Fund

Sun, 02/10/2019 - 20:12
A class-action lawsuit filed last year by a retired firefighter and the wife of another retired firefighter against the West Metro Fire Protection District, is now up to seventy-four plaintiffs. Tim O’Hayre and Ruth Brienza filed suit claiming the district improperly terminated a retiree health trust fund that firefighters had paid into during their tenure on the department.
Categories: Legal

First Amendment Right To Film and On-Duty Personnel

Thu, 02/07/2019 - 19:34
Today’s burning question: My chief thinks he can stop us from taking photos at incident scenes. He does not seem to understand we have a 1st Amendment Right to film in public places. Can you point me to any cases showing that an on-duty firefighter has a 1st Amendment Right to film? Answer: No, I cannot.
Categories: Legal

California Chief Sued for Sexual Harassment

Wed, 02/06/2019 - 18:26
A woman who claims she was sexually harassed by the fire chief of the Bakersfield Fire Department while both were employed by the city in 2017-2018, has filed suit against the city and the chief. The woman identified only as Jane Doe claims that former Fire Chief Douglas Greener began harassing her in the fall of 2017.
Categories: Legal

NY Fire Officer Accused of Being Drug Dealer

Tue, 02/05/2019 - 16:37
A Middletown, New York fire lieutenant has been arrested on drug charges amidst allegations that he is “a ringleader of a cocaine-dealing motorcycle club.” Lt. Paul Smith, 48, was arrested as part of a series of raids that netted 29 people. The raids were conducted by New York State Police and agents from the FBI and DEA in five locations.
Categories: Legal

Arbitrator Upholds Termination of Florida Firefighter For Gang Affiliation

Mon, 02/04/2019 - 17:22
The termination of a Florida firefighter for violating a gang affiliation prohibition has been upheld by an arbitrator. Clinton Neal Walker was fired by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue in January 2018. He was the first county employee to be charged with violating a new ordinance that prohibits employees from being affiliated with a criminal organization.
Categories: Legal

Building Owner Sues Illinois Fire Department

Sun, 02/03/2019 - 23:26
An Illinois fire department is being sued by a property owner over a 2017 fire that destroyed a shed containing numerous vehicles. William Dickerson II filed is December against the Village of Valmeyer alleging the village fire department was negligent.
Categories: Legal

Pensacola Chiefs Vindicated By Settlement

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 20:22
Two former chief officers of the Pensacola Fire Department have settled their lawsuits against the city for the sum of $575,000. Interim Chief Matthew Schmitt and Deputy Chief Joseph Glover filed separate lawsuits back in 2016 accusing the city of race discrimination and retaliation.
Categories: Legal

Fired Iowa Chief Sues for Age and Sex Discrimination

Wed, 01/30/2019 - 20:41
Former Davenport fire chief Lynn Washburn has filed suit against the city and city manager Corrin Spiegel over her termination in 2017. The state court suit alleges age discrimination, sex discrimination, retaliation, invasion of privacy, blacklisting in violation of Iowa Code Chapter 730, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Categories: Legal

Jury Awards Denver Captain $146k for Retaliation

Tue, 01/29/2019 - 14:48
A federal court jury in Denver has awarded a former captain who alleged sexual harassment and retaliation, $146,000 in compensatory damages. Colley Fisher claims her termination in 2015 was retaliation for her complaints about the “boys club” atmosphere within the Denver Fire Department. The jury agreed, handing down its’ verdict on January 16, 2019.
Categories: Legal

FDNY Mechanic Alleges Nursing Discrimination

Mon, 01/28/2019 - 19:15
An FDNY mechanic has filed a notice of claim that she intends to file suit against the city for discrimination and violation of the Nursing Mothers Act. Vanessa Feeley claims she was forced to express breastmilk in public and that the city improperly docked her for nursing breaks.
Categories: Legal

Illinois Chief Loses Suit to Block Termination

Sun, 01/27/2019 - 19:02
An Illinois chief who was found guilty of falsifying time sheets in 2015, has lost his effort to block his termination. Deputy Fire Chief Ronald Pieri filed suit against the Highwood Fire and Police Commission and Highwood City Manager Scott Coren earlier this year seeking to block their efforts to terminate him.
Categories: Legal

Seattle Settles Ambulance Crash for $65.7 Million

Thu, 01/24/2019 - 19:24
The City of Seattle has settled an apparatus accident case with a catastrophically injured attorney for a whopping $65.7 million. The accident occurred on April 24, 2016 when a Seattle Fire Department ambulance proceeded through a red light without stopping, and collided with a Porsche 911 driven by attorney Brooke Taylor.
Categories: Legal

Retired Bayonne BC Accused of Selling Stolen Fire Memorabilia on eBay

Wed, 01/23/2019 - 19:27
A retired battalion chief from Bayonne, New Jersey was arrested last week on charges that he stole memorabilia from a fire museum and then sold it on eBay. Paul Avery, 64, served 36 years with the Bayonne Fire Department, retiring as a battalion chief in 2017.
Categories: Legal

Mass Firefighter Sues Fire Chief For Religious Discrimination Over Photo

Tue, 01/22/2019 - 20:38
A Massachusetts firefighter who was disciplined for refusing to pose for a photograph on religious grounds, is suing his fire chief for violating his First Amendment rights. Thomas Swartz, a firefighter-paramedic for the Borne Fire Department, claims Fire Chief Norman Sylvester asked him to pose for a photo, and suspended him for one-day without pay when he refused
Categories: Legal