Massachusetts Dispute Boils Over into Federal Court

A dispute in Attleboro, Massachusetts that has been simmering for years has finally spilled over into a 33 page, 14 count Federal lawsuit that names over 10% of the department and the union as defendants.

Captain Dennis Perkins has filed suit against the City of Attleboro, former fire chief Ron Churchill, David Hazzlehurst, Brian Dubuc, Glen Livesey, Gerald Brogan, James Washington, Vincent Bailey, Jeffrey Parham, Edward Guillette, Stephen Marcotte,  Michael Wilson, Walter Guertin, Craig Lander and Attleboro Firefighters IAFF Local 848, alleging:

  • Violation of 1st Amendment Rights
  • Violation of 14th Amendment Rights, due process
  • Violation of Civil Rights under §1983
  • Conspiracy to violate Civil Rights
  • Common law conspiracy
  • Violation of state law civil rights
  • Violation of privacy under state law
  • Defamation
  • Intentional interference with a contractual relationship
  • Negligence
  • Negligent supervision and training
  • Intentional infliction of emotional distress
  • Negligent infliction of emotional distress
  • Retaliation

The facts are hotly disputed, and they are complicated. Captain Perkins claims that back in 2009 he was opposed to Fire Chief Churchill being granted a special exemption from an age-related mandatory retirement. That position, the Captain claims, caused the fire chief and the union to turn against him, fabricating the details of a July 4, 2009 verbal disagreement he had with a black firefighter, Vincent Bailey.

Following the July 4 incident, Captain Perkins was investigated for racial discrimination and suspended for two 24 hour tours (equal to one week).  FF Bailey filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, who found probable cause to believe the fire department had created a racially hostile work environment. The city subsequently settled with FF Bailey for $25,000 for emotional distress.

Here is a copy of the complaint, with all of the sordid details and allegations, including:

  • “The defendants intentionally, willfully, recklessly and maliciously misaligned the plaintiff and retaliated against the plaintiff because of his actual and/or perceived lack of support [for] defendant Churchill, and defendants acted under color of authority in gross disregard for the plaintiff’s rights,”
  • “As a consequence of Defendants’ actions, the Plaintiff has suffered, and continues to suffer damages including, but not limited to loss of income and benefits, loss of personal and professional reputation, other financial losses and emotional and mental distress, and the Plaintiff’s damages continue to date.”
  • “Defendant Attleboro, by and through its Personnel Director, Defendant Churchill, and Defendant Livesey, acting in concert with the Defendant Union, and Defendant letter writers, orchestrated, authorized, approved and encouraged the conspiracy to protect Defendant Bailey and the conspiracy to adversely affect the Plaintiff’s employment through the inappropriate and improper investigation of the Plaintiff.”
  • “The Defendants acted in concert to prepare written statements about the Plaintiff depicting the Plaintiff in a false light and providing false information about the Plaintiff in an effort to adversely harm the Plaintiff in his employment and interefere with the Plaintiff’s employment rights”

Amended Complaint

Having a number of friends and former students on Attleboro FD, it strikes close to home to have these details play themselves out publically.  It is hard to fathom a firefighter suing such a large percentage of his co-workers – almost as hard as it is to fathom such a wide ranging conspiracy.

Captain Perkins is seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as costs and attorney fees. More on the story.

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.

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