NJ Fire Company Disputes Fire District’s Right to Investigate and Discipline

A New Jersey volunteer fire company filed suit today against its fire district claiming the district commissioners breached it’s contract and exceeded its authority when it suspended five firefighters, including the company’s top line and administrative officers.

The Southard Fire Department #1 filed suit against Howell Township Fire District #3 after the district suspended Southard Fire Chief John Tucker, First Assistant Chief Ken Latchney, President Stephen Hadgkiss, Vice President Mathew Karabin and Treasurer Louis Memmolo, Jr. The SFD web site indicates that the suspensions were announced on April 21 and are “indefinite”.

The suspensions stem from an alleged failure to cooperate with the fire district’s investigation into an October 11, 2013 incident involving the fire company. Neither the district nor the fire company have gone on record to explain exactly what was being investigated. The Ashbury Park Press is quoting the fire company’s complaint as saying it received a letter dated April 11 from the fire commissioners complaining that “the premises of the substation were being misused, presumably by members of the Southard Fire Department for storing various items, including bedroom furniture, and other household items.”

The suit was filed in Monmouth County Superior Court against the fire commissioners and also names the Township of Howell. I was not able to get a copy of the complaint, but will make it available as soon as possible.

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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