Connecticut Chief Sues Fire District For Discrimination and Retaliation

A Connecticut fire chief has filed suit against a fire district and its chairwoman claiming his suspension in December was discriminatory, retaliatory, and invaded his privacy by casting him in a false light.

Fire Chief Frank Alaimo of the Thompsonville Fire District #2 filed suit in federal court against the district and fire commission Chairwoman Colleen Ann Reidy. Chief Alaimo was suspended on December 16, 2014 allegedly because he was slow to respond to a fire on December 10. 2014.

At the center of the suit appears to be a vendetta by Chairwoman Reidy and other comissioners against Chief Alaima since her election to the board in May, 2014. The suit alleges that in 2012 the chief supported construction of a new station at a cost of $3.5 million.

  • In or around 2012, a group of approximately 200 residents known as The Concerned Taxpayers of the Thompsonville Fire District (“CTTFD”) formed to protest the construction of the new firehouse.
  • CTFFD filed a complaint and motion for a temporary injunction against the Board of Fire Commissioners of the Thompsonville Fire District #2 related to the proposed construction of a new firehouse and the adoption of the annual budget. … On October 3, 2013, Hon. Judge Susan Peck dismissed the CTFFD’s lawsuit
  • The CTTFD began a campaign against Frank Alaimo, primarily on Facebook, making false accusations and personal attacks against him.
  • Reidy was one of the most vocal critics of Alaimo. For example, in a Facebook posting on March 22, 2014 criticizing Alaimo, she said, “Retirement can’t come soon enough.”
  • Three weeks after saying that Alaimo’s retirement can’t come soon enough, Reidy announced that she was running for a seat on the Thompsonville Fire Commission. She was later joined by CTTFD members William Stone and Patrick Gaskall as candidates for the Thompsonville Fire Commission.
  • On May 15, 2014, Reidy, Stone and Gaskall were elected to the Thompsonville Fire Commission.
  • On May 18, 2014, Chief Alaimo sent emails to Reidy providing her with information he thought she would need and expressed his desire to work with her. He stated “going forward it’s very important for the Chief and Chairman of the Board of Fire Commissioners to be communicating.” He added that “I am looking forward to working with you as well, I hope we can put our differences aside, always keeping the best interest of our Firefighters and the people we serve in mind.” He offered to meet with her to discuss the Fire Department structure and the organizational flow chart. He emailed her again on June 2, 2014 suggesting that they meet.
  • In the seven months since taking over as Chairwoman of the Fire Commission, Reidy never met with Alaimo. Rather, along with fellow CTTFD members Stone and Gaskall, she has engaged in a series of actions which culminated in Alaimo being suspended for one month without pay on December 18, 2014 for pretextual reasons. That campaign was carried out while Alaimo was dealing with the severe illness and October 5, 2014 death of his brother, Dominic Alaimo, who served as the chairman of the Thompsonville Fire District #2 for several years.

The complaint is much more detailed about some of the shenanigans, and in particular the December 10, 2014 fire that triggered the discipline.

  • One of the reasons why the Plaintiff was suspended for one month without pay was because he did not respond to a structure fire which occurred on December 10, 2014 until one hour and 45 minutes after the call originally came in.
  • Alaimo did not hear the call because at the time it came in shortly after 6 AM. He was in the bathroom at his home self-administering medication related to his treatment for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease.
  • During his disciplinary hearing on December 16, 2014, the Plaintiff explained that he was not able to immediately respond to the fire because he was in the bathroom and was administering treatment for his Colitis. He described the process he goes through to administer the treatment. He also said he had been diagnosed with Colitis Disease 17 years before.

While the fire commissioners publically said they were not aware of the chief’s medical condition, the complaint refutes that, stating that Ms. Reidy received written documentation of the chief’s condition months prior to December 10 fire..

Here is a copy of the complaint: Alaimo v Thompsonville

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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