Four Massachusetts Firefighters Sue Over Dismissals

Four Groton, Massachusetts firefighters have filed suit against their former department and eight town officials claiming wrongful termination, civil rights violations, defamation, emotional distress, and other charges.

The suit was filed September 2, 2014 in Middlesex County Superior Court by Clarence Jefferson, Stephen Tervo, Benjamin Miele and James Horan. Jefferson was a deputy chief with the Groton Fire Department while the others were call firefighters.

Named as defendants in the suit are Groton’s Town Manager Mark Haddad; Chairman of the Board of Selectmen Joshua Degen; Selectmen Peter Cunningham, Anna Eliot, Jack Petropoulos and Stuart Schulman; former Fire Chief Joseph Bosselait; Captain Susan Daly and Lieutenant. Anthony Hawgood.

The suit arises out of a complicated fact pattern, including allegations that:

  • The plaintiffs were trying to form a union;
  • An on-call firefighter, Cathy Lincoln, filed a harassment complaint that an investigation failed to substantiate;
  • Town Manager Haddad accused Chief Jefferson of encouraging Lincoln to file her complaint, which Chief Jefferson denied;
  • Hawgood accused Tervo of cutting off Daly’s vehicle when responding to a fire on Christmas Day, 2013, which Tervo denied.

The town opted not to reappoint Miele and Tervo earlier this year. According to the firefighters, the town had not been reappointing firefighters annually and the non-reappointment was a pretext to remove them. Chief Jefferson claims Chairman Degan forced him to retire after making “inappropriate comment about Jefferson’s age.” Horan claims he resigned due to ongoing harassing conduct.

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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