Former Salt Lake Fire Marshal Sues Claiming Demotion Was Retaliation

Salt Lake City’s former fire marshal who was demoted from Battalion Chief back to captain earlier this year has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against the city, Mayor Jackie Biskupski, former Fire Chief Brian Dale, Acting Fire Chief Karl Lieb and Assistant Fire Chief Rusty McMicken.

Martha Ellis alleges her demotion last May was a thinly veiled attack on her by those who were upset with her efforts to raise concerns about various improprieties, including payroll fraud, fire code violations in fire stations, and public safety issues.

Captain Ellis, who has a pending EEOC complaint against the city alleging sexual harassment and discrimination dating back to 2014, claims that Chiefs Dale, Lieb and McMicken all were involved in her contrived demotion. Her attorney, Jaqualin Peterson, claims Captain Ellis “tried dealing with these issues at the lowest level and the city’s been non-responsive.”

The suit seeks to have Captain Ellis reinstated as a Battalion Chief, damages and attorneys fees. Here is a copy of the complaint: ellis-v-salt-lake-city

More on the story.

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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