Author Archives: 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.

Orlando Fire Chief Steps Down Following EEOC Report

On the heels of an EEOC investigative report into allegations he sexually harassed a female subordinate, Orlando Fire Chief Rod Williams has opted to resign. Last year, Chief Williams was cleared of allegations that he harassed the same subordinate by an investigation conducted by an outside attorney.

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LA Settles with Former Fire Marshal For $800k

The City of Los Angeles has agreed to settle a lawsuit filed in 2017 by former Fire Marshal John Vidovich for $800,000. The suit alleged a conspiracy between the mayor and the firefighter’s union led to Chief Vidovich’s ouster.

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Nebraska Firefighter Awarded $1.2 million For Retaliation

The first of three Nebraska firefighters who are suing the City of Lincoln, has been awarded $1.2 million by a federal court jury. Captain Troy Hurd claims he was subjected to a series of disciplinary charges by ranking officers after he complained about instructors harassing recruits on the basis of their gender and national origin.

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California Battalion Chief’s Termination Overturned

A California battalion chief who was terminated for allegedly failing to report an altercation between a captain and a patient, and lying to investigators about it, has been granted a reprieve by the California Court of Appeals. Loma Linda battalion chief Steve Jones was terminated in 2014 over an incident that occurred on January 1, 2014.

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Former Miami Firefighters Charged Criminally Over Prank

Four Miami firefighters who were terminated in 2017 for their role in defacing photos belonging to a black fire lieutenant are now facing criminal charges related to the incident. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office filed criminal mischief charges against Harold Santana, Kevin Meizoso, Justin Rumbaugh and Alejandro Sese for their role in the September 9, 2017 prank gone-wrong.

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First Amendment Photography Followup

Today’s burning question: Regarding your post on violating the First Amendment rights of firefighters by banning picture taking while on duty, a government agency would likely have the right to ban personnel from another governmental agency from filming at their incident scene for the same reasons you mentioned that an employer can ban them, and also because of a compelling interest in maintaining the safety of the citizens and their employees. Am I missing something?

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Snapschat From Fatal Fire Scene Prompts Media Request

A Polk County, Florida fire captain is facing tough questions about his actions at the scene of a fatal house fire last November. Loretta Pickard died in the fire on November 23, 2018. Polk County Fire Rescue Captain James Williams was suspended for sending a Snapchat video from the scene.

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Retired Colorado Firefighters Sue District Over Health Insurance Fund

A class-action lawsuit filed last year by a retired firefighter and the wife of another retired firefighter against the West Metro Fire Protection District, is now up to seventy-four plaintiffs. Tim O’Hayre and Ruth Brienza filed suit claiming the district improperly terminated a retiree health trust fund that firefighters had paid into during their tenure on the department.

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First Amendment Right To Film and On-Duty Personnel

Today’s burning question: My chief thinks he can stop us from taking photos at incident scenes. He does not seem to understand we have a 1st Amendment Right to film in public places. Can you point me to any cases showing that an on-duty firefighter has a 1st Amendment Right to film? Answer: No, I cannot.

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California Chief Sued for Sexual Harassment

A woman who claims she was sexually harassed by the fire chief of the Bakersfield Fire Department while both were employed by the city in 2017-2018, has filed suit against the city and the chief. The woman identified only as Jane Doe claims that former Fire Chief Douglas Greener began harassing her in the fall of 2017.

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NY Fire Officer Accused of Being Drug Dealer

A Middletown, New York fire lieutenant has been arrested on drug charges amidst allegations that he is “a ringleader of a cocaine-dealing motorcycle club.” Lt. Paul Smith, 48, was arrested as part of a series of raids that netted 29 people. The raids were conducted by New York State Police and agents from the FBI and DEA in five locations.

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