What is Going On in Omaha

When you look at the fire service across the country it becomes painfully obvious that there are these snarly areas of discontent where legal battles just go on and on and on. One suit morphs into another suit and yet another.

Yesterday I blogged about North Kingstown, Rhode Island where it has been one senseless and costly pitched battle after the next with no end in sight. Washington DC is another city where it seems that litigation has become a way of life for the fire department.

On one level it is understandable that there will be some legal pushing and shoving going on, particularly in the northeast and places like the nation’s capitol. The headlines of firefighter unions suing cities or cities appealing rulings become little more than noise in the background of the daily news.

But it has been surprising to me to see headline after headline coming out of Omaha, Nebraska.

I confess I have never been to Nebraska. It is one of 14 states that I have yet to lecture in – but my sense has always been that as part of America’s heartland, the folks there have a kind of down to earth common sense that would not lend itself to the kind of endless litigation we see in other areas of the country. So much for my preconceived ideas.

Omaha firefighters have been waging a long and drawn out battle with Mayor Jean Stothert, who the firefighters claim is refusing to honor agreements she made last year. The firefighters claim they gave up pension and health care benefits to secure minimum safe staffing… something the mayor now finds too expensive.

In the mean time another battle appears to have been brewing between Mayor Stothert and her fire chief, Mike McDonnell.


Here are some previous posts involving Omaha over the past two years:

Omaha Firefighters NFPA 1710 Suit Dismissed

Omaha Staffing Dispute Continues

Omaha Photos Spark Police Investigation

Omaha Firefighters Sue to Enforce NFPA 1710

Nebraska Supreme Court Rules on Fill the Boot Case

Omaha Firefighters Lose Bad Faith Bargaining Claim

Omaha Defamation Suit Settled

Omaha Firefighters Claim City Council Interference Constitutes Bargaining in Bad Faith

Omaha Firefighter Basher Must Disclose Source

Omaha Captain Loses Her Bid to Block Transfer


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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