Texas Firefighter Reinstated By Arbitrator

A Texas firefighter has his job back thanks to a decision by an arbitrator.  Firefighter Robert Vargas of the McAllen Fire Department was terminated in January after he lied to investigators about a minor Halloween mishap with an engine company. The engine struck a mailbox while backing up.

Following the discovery of minor damage to the engine, Vargas’s officer, Lt. Marcos Reyes, ordered the crew not to discuss the accident and that he would take care of it.

During an investigative interview, Vargas denied any knowledge of the mishap and was “indefinitely suspended”, a euphemism in many jurisdictions for termination.

On appeal Vargas claimed he was following the orders of his officer, Lt. Reyes, not to discuss what occurred. He further claimed he was denied due process because he was never formally charged with lying and given an opportunity to defend himself.

The arbitrator reversed the termination and in a well reasoned decision, ruled that Vargas should receive a 10-day, unpaid suspension and return to work. Here is a copy of the decision, issued July 5, 2011.


For more on the story.

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.

Check Also

Fire Law Roundup for May 29, 2023

In this episode of Fire Law Roundup for May 29, 2023, Brad ...

St. Louis Firefighter Charged With Fraudulent Use of Crash Victim’s Credit Card

A St. Louis firefighter has been accused of using a credit card that belongs to the victim of a vehicular accident he responded to earlier this year. Arnold Britt has been charged with one count of receiving stolen property and one count of fraudulent use of a credit or debit device.