Florida Firefighter Alleges Retaliatory Termination and Whistleblower Violation

A Florida firefighter who claims he was fired after reporting the misuse of COVID related funds, has filed suit alleging retaliation and whistleblower violations. Kevin Nelmes filed suit against the Greater Naples Fire Rescue District claiming that he was wrongfully terminated earlier this year.

Nelmes, a lieutenant with GNFRD, contends that a week after he reported concerns about the possible misuse of CARES Act funds to a supervisor, the department placed him under investigation. Quoting from the complaint:

  • On or about April 14, 2021, the Plaintiff learned that the CARES Act monies received by the Defendant had not been used for the designated purpose and that there was money that was unaccounted for.
  • Accordingly, shortly thereafter, the Plaintiff sent a signed, written complaint to the Defendant’s Deputy Chief attempting to stop the misappropriation of the CARES Act monies.
  • However, the Defendant’s Deputy Chief did not investigate the Plaintiff’s complaint.
  • Instead, just a week later after the Plaintiff’s signed, written complaint attempting to stop the Defendant’s misappropriation of CARES Act monies, the Defendant opened an internal affairs investigation against the Plaintiff, before ultimately terminating his employment.
  • As a direct and proximate result of objecting to and filing a complaint regarding the Defendant’s violations of law, which included the Defendant fraudulently obtaining and retaining CARES Act monies, the Defendant subjected the Plaintiff to adverse employment action, to wit: his termination.

The complaint does not identify the allegations Nelmes faced, and that led to his termination. The suit contains two counts, a violation of the federal False Claims Act and a violation of Florida’s Public Whistleblower Act. Nelmes is seeking monetary damages as well as reinstatement.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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.

Check Also

Hotel Owners Sue Fire District and Fire Marshal Over Closure

The owners of a California hotel have filed suit against a city, a fire protection district, a building inspector, and a fire marshal claiming they unlawfully “red tagged” the building resulting in economic damages in the millions. The owners filed suit against the City of Anderson, Anderson Fire Protection District, city building inspector Brad Hawkins, fire marshal Steven Allred alleging a violation of their constitutional rights.

Fire Law Headlines: New York and Miami-Dade Follow-Up

There are two cases in the Fire Law headlines today, both being follow-ups of cases we covered previously. In New York, the Supreme Court for Oswego County has ruled that individual taxpayers lack standing to challenge a tax increase imposed by a fire district.