Atlantic City Firefighters Suit Removed to Federal Court

A suit filed last week by the Atlantic City Firefighters, IAFF Local 198 against the City of Atlantic City and the State of New Jersey over proposed fire departments cutbacks has been removed to federal court.

Local 198 originally filed suit in Atlantic County Superior Court seeking an injunction to stop plans to alter their collective bargaining agreement under the guise of the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act. Last year Atlantic City was designated by the state as a municipality in need of stabilization and recovery. The state has placed Jeffrey Chiesa in charge of day-to-day operations of Atlantic City as part of its oversight.

The firefighters allege that Chiesa’s subordinates have announced plans to reduce firefighters’ salaries and benefits, increase hours, and eliminate 100 of 225 firefighting positions. A key component of the plan is to eliminate an entire platoon (shift), putting the remaining personnel on a three-shift schedule averaging 56 hours per week.

According to the complaint, the plan violates the Municipal Stabilization and Recovery Act, as well as the Contract Clause of the US Constitution. The Contract Clause prohibits a state from passing legislation that alters an existing contract.

Attorneys for the city and the state used the Contract Clause argument to have the case removed to the US District Court for the State of New Jersey.

Here is the removal petition: Removal Petition

Here are the associated state court documents including the original complaint: State Court Documents

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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