California Fire Protection District Battles Four Suits

An embattled California fire chief who himself was the subject of three lawsuits is now filing one himself over his demotion to battalion chief last year. That leaves the fire protection district battling four separate lawsuits – and the plaintiff in one is a defendant in the other three!!!

Steve Mayotte was the fire chief of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District until June, 2013 when he was demoted following a lengthy and complicated disciplinary investigation that extended well over a year. He subsequently retired in December.

Chief Mayotte’s suit alleges that the District’s board of directors violated the California Firefighter Procedural Bill of Rights, violated its own discipline policy and denied him of due process in demoting him.

Here is a copy Chief Mayotte’s complaint. MAYOTTE FULL

[Note: It is unclear exactly what is missing from package and under “Seal” – but it appears to be a “Declaration of Stephen Mayotte in Support of Petition for Writ of Mandate”]

The chief’s discipline and ultimate demotion arose out of allegations made by three of his former subordinates, each of whom sued the district and Chief Mayotte. The suits allege that Chief Mayotte engaged in sexual harassment, age discrimination, retaliation, defamation, intentional (and negligent) infliction of severe emotional distress, and discrimination on the basis of union affiliation.

Here are the details on the three suits:

John Smith: Filed suit claiming Chief Mayotte made discriminatory remarks about his age (59) and “disqualified” him from further promotional testing for battalion chief on account of his age. Smith claims the chief engaged in a pattern of making abusive statements that “included insensitive remarks, discriminatory remarks, inappropriate comments and suggestions” that were “embarrassing and humiliating”. The suit alleges age discrimination, violation of the California Firefighters Procedural Bill of Rights, discrimination on the basis of union affiliation, negligent and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and defamation.

Here is Smith’s complaint: SMITH

Mary Williams: Alleged Chief Mayotte ordered her to fraudulently alter district documents and when she refused he terminated her. She also alleged that she complained about the chief’s derogatory comments about ethnic groups which she claims offended her, and that the chief created a sexually hostile work environment by making inappropriate comments:

“including (1) his desire to have been a porn star; (2) his ultimate fantasy was to have sex with his wife and another simultaneously; and (3) that the hottest he had ever gotten was when a stripper in a Las Vegas strip club started hitting on his wife in front of him.”

Williams also alleges that the chief solicited her to be his “second wife” through another employee who:

“badgered the plaintiff to take that position toward the Chief and start wearing an apron. The plaintiff would refuse the employee's offers and get into verbal disagreements with the employee about being spoken to in such a fashion.  MAYOTTE would see these arguments, know what they were over and intentionally urge them on. He would literally sit back in some instances and claim he wanted to "watch the show" about being MAYOTTE's "second wife."”

Her three-count complaint alleges sexual harassment and retaliation.

Here is a copy of Williams’ complaint: WILLIAMS

Matthew Condit: Filed suit alleging Chief Mayotte made inappropriate and vulgar sexually explicit remarks about him and after he complained retaliated by passing Condit over for promotion in favor of an outside candidate. His suit alleges sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of union affiliation, negligent and intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, and defamation.

Here is Conduit’s complaint. CONDIT

Note that the same law firm is handling Smith, Williams and Condit’s suits.

Here is 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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