California Fire District Sued for Defamation and Fraud

The former fire chief of a California fire district who resigned last year has filed suit against the district claiming defamation and fraud.

Fire chief Marc Revere resigned from the Novato Fire District in November 2012 shortly after questions were raised about the appropriateness of certain expenses that the chief incurred on behalf of the district. Last Wednesday, Chief Revere filed suit claiming the district, two of its board members, Farhad Mansourian and Jim Galli, and then-interim fire chief Ken Massucco, "injured him in his profession as a fire chief and caused him harm with regard to present and future business opportunities … the false statements were made with actual malice."

Last February, Mansourian, Galli and Chief Massucco met with a local newspaper, the Marin Independent Journal, in response to a public records request into expenses associated with the chief’s resignation. According to the Independent Journal – and I quote – “They said the chief misused his credit card privileges and approved hundreds of thousands of dollars of work without the district board's approval — statements the lawsuit claims are slanderous and false.”

Chief Revere’s complaint states: "The words uttered were false statements because the defendants had knowledge of and approved every expenditure they claim were unauthorized and made by the plaintiff."

The district recently settled a contentious $6 million lawsuit filed by a former battalion chief, Michael Hughes. Chief Hughes alleged he had been wrongfully denied professional advancement, retaliated against for protected speech and whistleblowing, and that the district had been negligent in hiring, training, supervision and retention of certain superior officers, including Chief Revere. The case was settled for $250,000.

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.

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