Kingston NY Chief Sues Over Termination

A fire chief in New York whose disciplinary case has been winding its way through the state’s bureaucratic system for nearly three years has filed his second suit in hopes of having an opportunity to clear his name.

Assistant Chief Christopher Rea, who served briefly as fire chief in Kingston, New York, was initially suspended without pay in 2012 for what Mayor Shayne Gallo characterized as receiving pay from the city while he was being paid to teach for the State of New York as a fire safety instructor.

Strangely, the city never filed formal charges against Chief Rea forcing him to file his first suit. In that action the city was ordered to reinstate Chief Rea or file formal charges and give him a formal hearing. The city then issued charges against him, and a hearing was ordered before Hearing Officer John T. Trela.

In July, 2014 Trela found in favor of Chief Rea on all charges, and recommended he be reinstated with backpay. Mayor Gallo refused to accept Trela’s findings and instead fired Chief Rea on October 14, 2014. That prompted the present lawsuit.

The primary allegation in the suit is that Mayor Gallo’s decision to terminate Chief Rea was “effected by error of law, was arbitrary and capricious, was made in an irrational manner, constitutes an abuse of discretion in recommending a penalty of termination for the proven conduct and is not supported by substantial evidence.”

The complaint seeks reinstatement, backpay, costs and attorneys fees.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Chris Rea v Kingston 2014

Here is Mayor Gallo’s ruling rejecting the Trela decision:Chris-Rea-Discipline Ruling

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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