City nears lawsuit settlement with fire chiefs

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WESTBROOK — The City Council has given preliminary approval to a proposed settlement with the fire chief and deputy fire chief, who sued the city last spring.

The settlement would pay Chief Andrew Turcotte and Deputy Chief Stephen Sloan $25,000  “to cover legal feels and other expenses incurred,” according to a memo from City Administrator Jerre Bryant to city councilors.

Turcotte and and Sloan alleged in their lawsuit that the city had subjected them to “adverse employment action by threatening” to terminate them, as well as subjecting them to “a hostile working environment.”

The settlement, according to memo from City Administrator Jerre Bryant to city councilors, provides for “the dismissal with prejudice of all claims made against the city and a release from the claimants that acknowledges that the city denies any liability or wrongdoing” in exchange for the payments.

Because the case was dismissed with prejudice, it cannot be brought up before a court again.

The City Council approved the settlement with no discussion at first reading Monday and is set for second reading on Oct. 15.

The chiefs allege that in April or May 2017, they raised concerns to the mayor, city administrator and director of human resources about “legal and safety issues, as well as other issues concerning policy violations.”

Concerns included a volunteer firefighter being paid to be an independent fire inspector for the city and the potential code and safety violations of reusing the old fire station at 41 Cumberland St. They said in their legal complaint, filed through Troubh Heisler attorneys, that because the mayor “had personal or political interests in the issues” raised, he had threatened to terminate their employment and undermined the chiefs with call company members.

In a response, through the Monaghan Leahy law firm, the city countered the chiefs’ complaints, saying that “the plaintiffs have no standing” and the city “has at all times acted in good faith.”

Bryant said there has been on-going discussions on resolving the issue without going to court or running up legal fees. He said he would “have no comment whatsoever” on the settlement that was reached by the city’s insurance company and Turcotte and Sloan.

Sanphy said he is refraining on commenting on the settlement until the City Council has taken definitive action on it.

Chief Turcotte said he and Deputy Chief Sloan are, at this point, deferring comment to Jonathan Goodman, an attorney with Troubh Heisler

“My guys want to resolve this. They want to move forward positively and have everyone get back to running the fire department and running the city,” Goodman said Monday. “We are hoping tonight works out positively and everyone feels that can move forward.”

Michael Kelley can be reached at 781-3661 x 125 or mkelley@keepmecurrent.com or on Twitter @mkelleynews

Westbrook Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte and Deputy Chief Stephen Sloan alleged in their lawsuit that the city had subjected them to “adverse employment action by threatening” to terminate them, as well as subjecting them to “a hostile working environment.”

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