Demotion of Salt Lake Fire Marshal Overturned

The Salt Lake City Civil Service Commission has overturned the demotion of Fire Marshal Martha Ellis, finding that the city wrongly demoted her in last year.

Chief Ellis was demoted from battalion chief to captain for an “apparent lack of engagement with [her] current assignment, a lack of ownership of [her] job responsibilities, an inability or unwillingness to follow instructions and a lack of respect for [her] chain of command.” The Civil Service Commission disagreed, and ordered her restored to the rank of battalion chief.

It is unclear how the ruling will impact Chief Ellis’ pending lawsuit against the city, Mayor Jackie Biskupski, and three chief officers, former Chief Brian Dale, Fire Chief Karl Lieb and Deputy Chief Robert McMicken. The suit alleges whistleblower retaliation, sex discrimination, and sexual harassment. It is also unclear how the ruling will impact the city’s decision to terminate Chief Ellis earlier this year.

According to a prepared statement from Chief Ellis:

  • “Despite substantial evidence supporting my claim, the city has continued to double down on the inconsistent position that the three chiefs, former Chief Brian Dale, Fire Chief Karl Lieb and Deputy Chief McMicken, have taken against my character.”
  • “This has felt like nothing more than a personal attack on me and my efforts to advance within the Salt Lake City Fire Department.”

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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