Georgia Firefighter Claims Whistleblower Retaliation Because He Testified in Support of Earlier Whistleblower

A Georgia firefighter who testified in a whistleblower retaliation suit brought by a colleague, has filed his own whistleblower retaliation suit claiming he was purposefully passed over for promotion. Jeffry Bird filed suit last month naming Fire Chief Wade Elmore and the City of College Park as defendants.

The suit was filed in Fulton County Superior Court, and removed to US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia by the city due to allegations of federal constitutional violations.

According to the complaint:

  • In March 2019, another College Park firefighter, Stuart Miner, filed a lawsuit under the Georgia Whistleblower Act, O.C.G.A. § 45-1-4. This lawsuit alleged, among other things, illegal conduct by Fire Chief Elmore, including false statements in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-10-8 and O.C.G.A. § 16-10-20 aimed at covering up sexual harassment in the fire department and to achieve other wrongful purposes.
  • Mr. Bird was a witness in the Miner Case. He testified both at deposition and at trial. His trial testimony was compelled by a subpoena that Mr. Miner’s counsel caused to be served on him.
  • Mr. Bird’s testimony disclosed and contributed to disclosing violations of law by Fire Chief Elmore and the City, including, among others, violation of the Whistleblower Act.
  • After Mr. Bird testified, Fire Chief Elmore retaliated against him by denying Mr. Bird an interim promotion to the rank of lieutenant.
  • Fire Chief Elmore denied Mr. Bird, and only Mr. Bird, the interim promotion as retaliation for Mr. Bird’s testimony in the Miner Case.
  • Fire Chief Elmore’s retaliation against Mr. Bird is corrupt and malicious.
  • Indeed, it is part of a long series of coverups, concealment, and retaliation, including retaliation inflicted on at least one other person who testified in the Miner Case, all of which will be further uncovered in discovery as additional evidence of the illegal motives of Fire Chief Elmore and his accomplices and the lengths to which they will go to achieve their illegal ends.
  • Many of Fire Chief Elmore’s wrongful acts have been in furtherance of a general policy and practice of the College Park city government to facilitate and conceal wrongdoing by hindering investigation and correction of such wrongdoing by City officials and to intimidate, harass, obstruct, and retaliate against anyone who dares shed light on the corruption.
  • The City’s then-City Manager testified in 2019 that the City has a policy under which department heads such as Fire Chief Elmore are to work together with the human resources director to keep grievances bottled up in the departments, to the extent possible.
  • Despite a verdict against the City in the Miner Case and at least one other settlement in a case alleging malfeasance by Fire Chief Elmore, the City has continued to renew Fire Chief Elmore’s contract because his wrongdoing is condoned and approved by City government and is furthering specific goals and policies of the City.

The suit alleges a violation of Bird’s First Amendment rights actionable under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a violation of the Georgia Whistleblower Act. Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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