Spokane Captain Seeks $2.5 Million for Retaliation

A fire captain in Spokane, Washington who was terminated last Friday for threatening a subordinate has filed a $2.5 million claim against the department.

Captain Kevin Smathers claims that the fire department failed to protect him from retaliation by a subordinate lieutenant who he had previously turned in for driving a city vehicle while intoxicated and carry a firearm while intoxicated.

Smathers was suspended on May 1, 2013 following allegations that he threatened the lieutenant in emails as follows:

“You are a passive aggressive, cowardly little “man” who doesn’t have the guts to do the right thing. Everyone (HR, the Union, other investigators, etc.) know why you did what you did; purely out of revenge for my notifying the Admin about your being under the influence of alcohol and driving a City vehice TWICE, once while carrying a gun. And you’re worried about my driving code and safety issues with a gun. If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black; I don’t know what is.”

“I have the resources and witnesses to prove all I need to,” read the email. “My mission for the remainder of my life is to pay you back for what you did. Everything I do will be legal and above board; but it will be incredibly painful and life changing for you. I am more motivated and focused on this than anything else I have decided to do in my life. I will not fail… but you will. You are the lowest, most deceitful human being I have ever known in my life. I plan on letting every person I know; what you did and why. Many already do. You are not a “little bastard”; you are just a little, cowardly, bad person (you aren’t even a man).”

The four month investigation resulted in Smathers’ termination on October 4, 2013.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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