YCMTSU Oregon Prompts Two Federal Lawsuits

“Throughout your life you hear about weird stuff that goes on in small communities and politics and stuff and here we are.” That is a quote from a gentleman named Tim Hamburger. He is the Chairman of Board the Tillamook Fire District in Tillamook, Oregon. After reading what has been going on in his department, I think his quote can only be characterized as a severe understatement.

This is one of those stories that is almost too bizarre to believe, and too complicated to explain. YCMTSU. Let me just quickly outline the allegations. You can read the details here.

It starts with a male firefighter urinating outside a fire station in the presence of a female, and being suspended. He is placed on probation. About a month later he apparently enters the fire station and – according to two lawsuits – engaged in a lewd act in the apparatus bay.  That act is caught on a camera placed there by a mechanic because someone had previously stolen some of his tools. According to the chief, the mechanic had requested permission to use the camera, but was expressly prohibited from directing the camera toward the apparatus bay. He was only authorized to film the entrance.

The original firefighter ends up resigning. Despite directions from the chief, the video gets shared, which raises concerns about a possible violation of the Oregon “revenge porn” law. Two firefighters get disciplined and ultimately are terminated for their role in the sharing of the video. They later sue the fire district and the fire chief claiming violations of their 1st and 14th Amendment rights, as well as retaliation. The female who witnessed the urinating files a claim against the department. The three are using the same law firm.

Oh, and one of the disciplined firefighters who sued the department – he’s also the mayor. And he decides that he will run for the fire district board, and of course gets elected (ran unopposed). That prompts the fire chief to resign. And the original firefighter who was filmed: he gets a fire chiefs job in another department.

Here is the original story about the case.

Here are the complaints filed by the two terminated firefighters.

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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