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.

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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Arbitrator Upholds Termination of Florida Firefighter For Gang Affiliation

The termination of a Florida firefighter for violating a gang affiliation prohibition has been upheld by an arbitrator. Clinton Neal Walker was fired by Hillsborough County Fire Rescue in January 2018. He was the first county employee to be charged with violating a new ordinance that prohibits employees from being affiliated with a criminal organization.

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Building Owner Sues Illinois Fire Department

An Illinois fire department is being sued by a property owner over a 2017 fire that destroyed a shed containing numerous vehicles. William Dickerson II filed is December against the Village of Valmeyer alleging the village fire department was negligent.

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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.

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Fired Iowa Chief Sues for Age and Sex Discrimination

Former Davenport fire chief Lynn Washburn has filed suit against the city and city manager Corrin Spiegel over her termination in 2017. The state court suit alleges age discrimination, sex discrimination, retaliation, invasion of privacy, blacklisting in violation of Iowa Code Chapter 730, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

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Jury Awards Denver Captain $146k for Retaliation

A federal court jury in Denver has awarded a former captain who alleged sexual harassment and retaliation, $146,000 in compensatory damages. Colley Fisher claims her termination in 2015 was retaliation for her complaints about the “boys club” atmosphere within the Denver Fire Department. The jury agreed, handing down its’ verdict on January 16, 2019.

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FDNY Mechanic Alleges Nursing Discrimination

An FDNY mechanic has filed a notice of claim that she intends to file suit against the city for discrimination and violation of the Nursing Mothers Act. Vanessa Feeley claims she was forced to express breastmilk in public and that the city improperly docked her for nursing breaks.

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Illinois Chief Loses Suit to Block Termination

An Illinois chief who was found guilty of falsifying time sheets in 2015, has lost his effort to block his termination. Deputy Fire Chief Ronald Pieri filed suit against the Highwood Fire and Police Commission and Highwood City Manager Scott Coren earlier this year seeking to block their efforts to terminate him.

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