Texas City Sues Promotional Cheaters for $1 Million

A Texas city has filed a $1 million suit against two fire officers who allegedly used high tech equipment to cheat on promotional examinations.

The City of Garland filed suit against Assistant Chief Todd Peele, 43, and Captain Michael Cates, 45, alleging that in conjunction with an unnamed firefighter they conspired to defraud the city and their fellow firefighters through cheating.

The trio allegedly used smartphones and Bluetooth devices as part of their scheme. All three co-conspirators have since resigned.

According to the complaint, in 2009 Peele requested permission to read the exam questions aloud to himself on a promotional test for battalion chief “falsely alleging that it was necessary for him to read aloud to himself to properly understand the questions.” The smartphones and Bluetooth devices allowed the co-conspirators to hear the question remotely, research the correct answer, and inform the test taker through an in-ear device.

Peele scored a 98 on the exam qualifying him for a promotion to battalion chief. The same year the unnamed co-conspirator received a promotion to driver using the scheme.

Using the scheme, Cates scored a 95 on a lieutenant’s exam in 2010; in 2012 Peele scored a 98 on an exam for assistant chief; and in 2013 Cates scored a 96 on a promotional test for captain.

From the complaint:

“By defrauding the city and cheating on their promotional examinations, Peele and Cates were paid tens of thousands of dollars in money they did not deserve”

“Each Garland firefighter has every right to expect that their brother and sister firefighters, the people with whom they entrusted their very lives, would compete for the limited promotional positions honestly and without cheating”

The City seeks to recoup the compensation that Peele and Cates wrongfully received, was well as block them from receiving any retirement benefits. The suit also asks for punitive damages. Both Peele and Cates had over 20 years of service.

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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