Idaho Chief’s Suit Survives Summary Judgment

A wrongful termination lawsuit filed by the former fire marshal of Nampa, Idaho survived a motion for summary judgment last week. Deputy Chief Doug Strosnider was fired in May, 2014 after he sent notices to two property owners about installing fire alarm and sprinkler systems, and reported one property owner to discrimination officials for insisting blind or deaf individuals were prohibited from living in the building.

Nampa Mayor Bob Henry had previously expressed reservations to Chief Strosnider about his plans for the buildings, but the notices went out anyway. Chief Stronider was terminated shortly thereafter, prompting a federal court lawsuit against Nampa, Mayor Henry and Fire Chief Karl Malott.

The suit included a range of allegations, including:

  • First Amendment claim
  • Whistleblower violation
  • Violation of his due process rights based on a deprivation of property due to his interest in employment
  • Violation of due process rights based on a liberty interest
  • Breach of Contract/Good Faith and Fair Dealing
  • A cause of action under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. § 3617, that prohibits retaliation against anyone who sought aid or assisted others in seeking aid under the act

The city moved for summary judgment on all counts, but Judge B. Lynn Winmill rejected each one. For those who have been through my discipline program, Judge Winmill’s ruling is a good review of some of the difficult issues associated with due process, as well as how collateral issues such a First Amendment and Whistleblower become vitally important.

Here is a copy of the ruling: Strosnider v Nampa MSJ

The next step is likely to be the trial.

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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