YCMTSU New Mexico

A dispute in a small town in New Mexico has resurfaced in the Fire Law news with word that a county has filed a counterclaim against a former fire chief who sued the county earlier this year.

You may recall the YCMTSU story of Fire Chief Eddie Velarde. Back in 2011, he was arrested at the scene of a sizeable wildland fire by a Rio Arriba County deputy sheriff who was concerned that the chief was mismanaging the incident. Besides the criminal charges for disorderly conduct, the county removed Chief Velarde from his position as fire chief of the Velarde Fire Department.

Chief Velarde beat the criminal charges and filed suit against the deputy and the county. That suit resulted in an $82,500 settlement and an agreement that Chief Velarde would return to the department as a regular member.

Last May, Chief Velarde filed suit against the county alleging breach of contract, breach of implied contract, breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, retaliation, and violation of the Whistle Blower Protection Act.

The county has responded with some YCMTSU allegations of its own, denying Chief Velarde’s allegations, and accusing him of breaching the settlement agreement, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, malicious abuse of process, “prima facie tort” (aka intentional and malicious infliction of harm), and racketeering.

Here is more on the story. It provides a very good explanation of the allegations and travel of the case up to this point.

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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