Washington Chief Settles Wrongful Termination and Defamation Suits for $725k

A Washington state fire chief who was awarded $734,376.50 in damages by a federal court earlier this year, has reached a settlement of his wrongful termination and defamation suits with the defendants that will avoid the matter being prolonged by appeals and further proceedings. Fire Chief David Bathke was terminated in 2019 by Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler after he refused her requests to resign.

Chief Bathke sued contending that under his employment contract he could only be terminated for cause, which Dingler lacked. US District Court Judge Benjamin H. Settle agreed awarding Chief Bathke the $735k judgment.

Under the terms of the settlement, the city will pay Chief Bathke $725,000 in exchange for the release of all claims in the federal court suit, and the dismissal of a second suit brought by the chief against Fire Captain Corey Kuhl in state court. The state court suit was pending in Grays Harbor County Superior Court, and alleged defamation.

Dingler issued a press release calling the settlement a “a significant step.” She also said: “We can finally put this behind us and move our focus toward further developing our Fire Department and strengthening our EMS and Fire service.”

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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