Spokane Captain Seeks $2.5 Million for Retaliation

A fire captain in Spokane, Washington who was terminated last Friday for threatening a subordinate has filed a $2.5 million claim against the department.

Captain Kevin Smathers claims that the fire department failed to protect him from retaliation by a subordinate lieutenant who he had previously turned in for driving a city vehicle while intoxicated and carry a firearm while intoxicated.

Smathers was suspended on May 1, 2013 following allegations that he threatened the lieutenant in emails as follows:

“You are a passive aggressive, cowardly little “man” who doesn’t have the guts to do the right thing. Everyone (HR, the Union, other investigators, etc.) know why you did what you did; purely out of revenge for my notifying the Admin about your being under the influence of alcohol and driving a City vehice TWICE, once while carrying a gun. And you’re worried about my driving code and safety issues with a gun. If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black; I don’t know what is.”

“I have the resources and witnesses to prove all I need to,” read the email. “My mission for the remainder of my life is to pay you back for what you did. Everything I do will be legal and above board; but it will be incredibly painful and life changing for you. I am more motivated and focused on this than anything else I have decided to do in my life. I will not fail… but you will. You are the lowest, most deceitful human being I have ever known in my life. I plan on letting every person I know; what you did and why. Many already do. You are not a “little bastard”; you are just a little, cowardly, bad person (you aren’t even a man).”

The four month investigation resulted in Smathers’ termination on October 4, 2013.

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.
  • Bigtruckee

    After reading all the documents in this case (posted elsewhere and easily obtainable) it is quite obvious that Fire Department leadership failed to address the issues within the work place. Had Chief Williams responded appropriately to the repeated use of alcohol by the Lt. this issue would not be happening. I have seen this before, in order to hide the fact that Administrations have failed they attack the lower ranking employee and he is made the fall guy. On other web sites it seems the blame is always placed on the person being dragged through the mud. When will we begin to hold the upper level administrators feet to the fire. They did not address the issue with a drunk subordinate and returned him to the same office which allowed him to retaliate against the person who reported his inappropriate behavior. I believe Smathers' case is full of BS trumped up items in an attempt to smear his name in a public venue. Obvious that utilizing your personal email to voice displeasure and inform an accuser that you will seek legal remedy is perfectly legal and protected speech. The brass knuckles- no reason not to believe he forgot about them, but likely a case could be made for discipline at a lower level. The guns in a personal safe- are you kidding me!!!! I applaud his effort to keep the guns assigned to his unit in the safest manner possible- give him an award. How many Federal agents and police officers have had car prowlers steal their weapons or even their own children hurt themselves or others with service weapons?


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