Michigan Chief Sues for Wrongful Termination

A nationally known and highly respected fire chief who was unceremoniously terminated by Northville Township in March, has filed suit claiming wrongful termination, age discrimination, due process violations, and a violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act.

Chief Richard Marinucci, who has over 30 years experience as a fire chief in two different fire departments, and over 40 years in the fire service, was told by township officials in March to resign or be fired. His status remained a mystery to the public, as were the reasons for his absence.

On April, 1, 2016 the Detroit News quoted the township’s director of public safety, John Werth, as saying that Chief Marinucci “has resigned and beyond that it is a personnel matter and we don’t discuss personnel matters.” That story was reportedly confirmed by Township Manager Chip Snider.

The Detroit News then contacted Chief Marinucci, who denied resigning, stating “I don’t care what anyone is saying, I never submitted my resignation. I’ve heard some of the rumors and none of it is true … We had a brief discussion and I was told not to report to work.”

The seven count suit names township manager Chip Snider, finance director Marina Neumaier, public safety director John Werth, human resources director and assistant manager Debbie Wilhelm, and township board members Box Nix, Sue Hillebrand, Marjorie Banner, Marvin Gans, Symantha Heath, Mindy Hermann and Fred Shadko.

Chief Marinucci, 62, had been fire chief of the Northville Township Fire Department since 2009. Prior to that he served 32 years with the Farmington Hills Fire Department, 24 of which were as fire chief.

In his long and distinguished career, Chief Marinucci served as President of the Michigan Fire Chiefs, President of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Executive Director of the Fire Department Safety Officer’s Association, and served for ten years on the technical committee for NFPA 1500. He is the editor of the current edition of the Fire Chief’s Handbook.

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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