Ohio Chief Claims He Was Politically Ousted Over Fire Code Enforcement

An Ohio fire chief who claims he was fired because a politically connected property-owner was upset about series of recent fire inspections has filed suit in federal court naming the city manager, the mayor, the city council and the property-owner.

Louisville Fire Chief Kevin Lanzer was fired on September 9, 2013 by city manager E. Thomas Ault who was allegedly acting on orders from the city council. According to the complaint:

Ault told Lanzer that he had been instructed by the Council Members to terminate Lanzer’s employment and that if he did not do so, the Council Members would terminate Ault’s employment. Ault then terminated Lanzer’s employment. Lanzer asked Ault the reason for which he was being terminated and Ault replied that Lanzer had done nothing wrong and that Lanzer’s employment was being terminated only for political reasons.

The firing came on the heels of complaints by businessman William Jeffries, who’s properties had just been cited by Louisville Fire Captain Rob Yoder. According to the complaint:

On or about September 3, 2013, Jeffries contacted Ault and stated he would contact the members of Louisville City Council and seek to have the Fire Chief removed from office. Jeffries stated he was unhappy with the Ohio Fire Code examination and inspection process, reports, and signage.

The suit alleges Chief Lanzer’s due process rights were violated, and that his termination violated the city charter. Here is a copy of the complaint. Lanzer v Louisville

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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