California Fire District Sued For Retaliation

A fire district in California is facing a suit by three current and former firefighters who claim the department retaliated against them for their position on health and safety related matters.

Christopher Blair, Han Domini, and Michael Hayek claim the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District wrongfully terminated Blair, wrongfully blocked Domini from receiving a promotion; and intentionally inflicted severe emotional distress upon both Blair and Hayek.

Blair, a 26 year veteran of the Santa Barbara Fire Department, was hired by the district as a battalion chief/safety officer in 2012. He was released prior to the end of his one-year probationary period after confronting Fire Chief Michael Mingee about Domini being passed over for promotion. The lawsuit claims the termination was retaliation for the concerns Blair raised as safety officer, and for his support for Domini.

The complaint contains a number of allegations against Chief Mingee, including that he:

  • manipulated test scores to ensure Domini was not promoted
  • showed personnel an image of a snake wearing a fire helmet referring to it as Hayek
  • refered to Blair, Domini and Hayek as “the cancer” in the department and stated that they needed be removed

The plaintiffs, all member’s of the district’s health and safety committee, claim they “discovered numerous health and safety violations by the district and raised several workplace safety concerns."

Chief Mingee has gone on record as denying the claims, and was quoted by the Santa Barbara Independent as saying  “I don’t want people to think that the fire department is not doing it’s job.… The district has nothing to hide. It’s all public record.”

More on the story.

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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