Firefighter sues for his job |

Firefighter sues for his job

Man alleges he was fired for voicing safety concerns

— A former Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighter has filed a wrongful termination suit against the city, claiming his September 2006 firing came after he raised safety issues with his supervisors.

Craig resident David Roberts, who is being represented by Berthoud attorney Elizabeth Lamb Kearney, alleges he was fired after he began raising concerns with some of the department’s safety equipment in the fall of 2005.

In court filings, the city has denied Roberts’ allegations.

Public Safety Director J.D. Hays has not commented on the case, instead referring questions to the city’s Denver-based attorneys, Marni Nathan Kloster and J. Andrew Nathan. Assistant Chief Bob Struble, who also is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, said he could not comment on the pending case. Struble is being represented by Boulder attorney Josh Marks.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in December 2006. The city’s attorney filed a response to the lawsuit in February, denying all of the allegations.

On Wednesday, Kearney said the city offered Roberts $15,000 to settle the matter, which he declined. The case now is scheduled for jury trial in August 2008.

Roberts is seeking reinstatement with the fire department and about $86,000 in compensation.

The suit alleges Roberts “discussed his concerns with his fellow firefighters and was warned not to bring it to (Struble’s) attention.”

The document also alleges Struble “had a history and practice of ignoring safety and training requirements.”

Roberts was concerned with what he believed were “neglected inspections” of breathing apparatus and the department’s cascade and fill stations, which are used to refill air bottles, Kearney said.

Roberts “was just doing what he thought he needed to do to protect his fellow firefighters and his community,” Kearney said.

The city’s response to Kearney’s allegations includes the statement, “the defendant is currently uninformed as to the allegations contained therein and therefore, at this time, denies the same.”

Roberts claims his assigned shifts were “gradually reduced to one every several weeks” and that he was not given the opportunity to log shifts or calls needed to complete his EMT/ paramedic check-offs for the department.

Documents indicate “inspection and/or testing of some Fire Rescue equipment was performed in 2006,” and that the department “is in the process of purchasing a new fill station.”

While on vacation in Sep-

tember, Roberts received a letter informing him he had been fired from the department without cause. The city acknowledges such a letter was sent.

Prior to his employment in Steamboat, Roberts was a full-time firefighter in the Denver area. He worked for 16 years with the West Metro Fire Department and for two years with the North Metro Fire Department.

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