Pensacola Chiefs Vindicated By $575k Settlement

Two former chief officers of the Pensacola Fire Department have settled their lawsuits against the city for the sum of $575,000.

Interim Chief Matthew Schmitt and Deputy Chief Joseph Glover filed separate lawsuits back in 2016 accusing the city of race discrimination and retaliation. Both chiefs  filed discrimination claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2015. Thereafter, they were then placed on administrative leave, subjected to an investigation an outside law firm, and terminated by the city based upon a “loss of confidence” in their leadership.

Chief Schmitt, who is white, alleged that his support for Chief Glover, who is black, is what doomed his future with the department. Besides the city, Chief Schmitt’s suit named Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward, City Administrator Eric Olsen, and Chief Human Resources Officer Edward Sisson personally.

Attorney Rocco Calamusa, who represented both chiefs, was quoted as saying:

  • Chief Schmitt and Chief Glover are glad that the matter has finally been resolved.
  • They both stand by their allegations that they were retaliated against.
  • Their leave, the investigation and terminations were in retaliation for complaining about discrimination and filing EEOC charges against the city and its management.
  • They are both glad they stood up for what they believed was right, and with this resolution, their resignation and the payments, they have been vindicated and are ready to move on with their lives.

The settlement became public in mid-January despite the fact that it was reached in November 2018 just before the election for Mayor Hayward’s replacement. Under the terms of the settlement, Chief Glover will receive $302,500, and Chief Schmitt will receive $272,500.

More on the story.

Here is a link to a timeline of the claims put together by the Pensacola News Journal.

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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