Florida Fire Department Settles Wrongful Termination Suit

Two Florida firefighters have received $80,000 settlements in their wrongful termination suit. Flagler Beach firefighters Shane Wood and Jacob Bissonnette were terminated last year over an incident that occurred in their station on Christmas day, 2012. Both were off duty at the time, but allegedly were in possession of alcohol in the station.

However, the pair claim that they were the victims of retaliation for doing the right thing. According to their complaint, they were asked by “Flagler County Probation Department to investigate allegations of a probationer filing false community service hour reports” by another firefighter. They cooperated with the investigation which revealed that “Firefighter Robert Pace falsified community service records for a convicted felon.” This information was turned over to Fire Chief Martin Roberts and Flagler County Probation.

Pace responded by accusing Wood and Bissonnette of the alcohol possession on Christmas day. He also accused then Chief Roberts of drinking alcohol at the department Christmas party and then driving fire apparatus on a run. The Chief, Wood and Bissonnette were then terminated by City Manager Bruce Campbell, and Pace was appointed Acting Fire Chief. Pace was later charged with obstruction of justice and placed on administrative leave. When the charges were dropped he was reinstated as a captain.

Under the terms of the settlement, Wood and Bissonnette will receive $80,000, their employment history will be cleared of any wrongdoing related to the Christmas incident, and they will voluntarily resign from the department. The city does not acknowledge any wrongdoing and each side is responsible for its own costs and attorneys fees.

Here is 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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