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West Palm Beach Controversy Takes Strange Turn

A controversial West Palm Beach fire captain who was recently convicted of DUI, has won a new trial based on judicial misconduct. He now wants his job back and claims the entire matter is part of a conspiracy against him.

Captain Rick Curtis has been the center of controversy for at least the past 10 years in West Palm Beach. He has been involved in a series of complaints and lawsuits alleging race discrimination within the West Palm Beach Fire Department.

When originally arrested for DUI in January, 2010 he claimed that racism was involved. Later he alleged some of his co-workers were involved. Here is a video of his booking.

Captain Curtis was convicted of DUI in May of this year. Now it turns out that the judge in the case,  Justice Marni Bryson, had an “intimate relationship” with one his Curtis’s antagonists, Doug Greene, the vice president of the West Palm Beach Association of Firefighters. Incidentally, the union refused to back Captain Curtis’s grievance of his termination which followed the conviction.

In granting Captain Curtis a new trial, County Court Judge Paul Damico concluded that the relationship between Judge Bryson and Greene should have been disclosed. The State judicial commission is now looking into the allegations.

In a related case, West Palm Beach Captain David Nelson was forced to retire in May of this year following disclosure that he produced an animated video lampooning Captain Curtis and posted it on YouTube. The video “Everyone Loves a Drunk Firefighter” contained obscenities and was considered to be racially offensive.

No word on when Captain Curtis will be retried. More on the story.

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About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.