Suit by Political Activist Against Fire Chief and City is Dismissed

A lawsuit filed against a fire chief, a fire marshal and a Tennessee city by a political activist who was defeated in a 2018 election, has been dismissed. Chris Spencer unsuccessfully ran for an Alderman’s position for the City of Hendersonville. He claims Hendersonville Fire Chief Scotty Bush and Fire Marshal Paul Varble used city time and resources to help defeat him.

Spencer, who ran on a “small government, anti-corruption” platform claims Chief Bush and Fire Marshal Varble, along with other members of the fire department, opposed him because of his opposition to the building of a new fire station. He lost by just 359 votes to a candidate he claims was recruited and supported by the firefighters. The suit alleged violations of the First, Ninth, and Fourteenth Amendments pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985, and a violation of the Tennessee Constitution.

In a ruling handed down earlier this month, US District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger dismissed all of Spencer’s counts on an assortment of grounds ranging from a lack of standing to bring a case that seeks mere “moral satisfaction,” to a failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

The case is a tough read. Here is media coverage.

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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