Cadet Sues Former BC and Columbus Fire

A Columbus, Ohio battalion chief who resigned last year amidst allegation of sexual harassment, has been sued by a “fire cadet” for coercing her to undress and touching her inappropriately. The cadet, whose name was not released in news reports about the lawsuit, filed suit today in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. A copy of the complaint was not available online, but I was able to confirm that the suit was filed.

The suit names retired Battalion Chief Joe Richard, who was suspended while an investigation unfolded into his having made sexually inappropriate comments to three female employees, as well as the city and the fire department. He later opted to retire.

In regards to the allegations made by the cadet, the Columbus Dispatch stated:

  • Richard coerced the woman “into removing her pants” while she was not wearing underwear, supposedly to look at an injured knee that the woman said was preventing her from doing exercises with her cadet class.
  • While naked from the waist down, the lawsuit claims, Richard had her do exercises as he watched, and sexually touched her at one point.
  • The woman interpreted comments made by Richard to mean that she could get kicked out of the cadet program if she failed to follow his orders, the suit alleges.

The Dispatch also quoted Chief Richard’s attorney, Larry James, as saying “You don’t want to speculate as to character assassination.” The Dispatch also wrote that James indicated “that there are two versions of the story, which involves Richard befriending and mentoring the cadet and trying to help her get a knee brace.”

Here is more on the story from the Columbus Dispatch and NBC4i.com.

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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