West Palm Beach Captain Loses Action Against Local 727

One of our frequent fliers here at fire law is back in the headlines. Former West Palm Beach Fire Captain Rick Curtis has lost what he appeared to have won in November: a ruling against his union for failing to represent him when he was fired in 2011.

Captain Curtis has been involved in a series of discrimination claims and lawsuits dating back at least to 2004. In 2011 he was arrested for drunk driving. Shortly thereafter, a video surfaced showing him going on a tirade against the arresting officers. He was convicted of drunk driving and terminated from the fire department. That seemed to end the case.

However, is a move worthy of Lazarus, Curtis showed that the judge in his criminal case had an undisclosed relationship with firefighters’ union vice-president Doug Greene, with whom he was at odds. Captain Curtis earned the right to a new trial, was then acquitted, and sought to be reinstated to the department.

He also filed a complaint with the state Public Employee Relation’s Board alleging that his union, West Palm Beach Association of Firefighters, IAFF Local 727, failed to properly represent him. Last November, a PERB hearing officer agreed and ordered Local 727 to reimburse him for back pay and attorneys fees.

However, his luck run out last week when the full PERB ruled in favor of the union, concluding that it acted reasonably given Captain Curtis’ disciplinary history, his verbal altercation with the officer, and his refusal to submit to testing.

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Captain Curtis is continuing to allege racism, texting a reporter “white fire captains have kept their jobs for much worse offenses”.

More on the story.

At the present time, my database has 7 cases involving Captain Curtis… that is getting up there into Dennis Rubin territory!!!

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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