Former fire chief, 2 other FFs sue over reassignments

The firefighters say they were wrongly demoted to captain when they should have been reassigned as battalion chiefs


Tyler Juranovich
Kokomo Tribune, Ind.

KOKOMO, Ind. — Three Kokomo firefighters, including the former fire chief, are suing the city, the Board of Works and the current fire chief over reassignments they say were not legal.

Nick Glover, Steve Stackhouse and Chris Hall believe they were wrongly reassigned in January by Chris Frazier, Kokomo’s new fire chief as of this year, according to a complaint filed March 5 in Howard County Superior Court IV.

Three firefighters at the Kokomo Fire Department are suing the city over their reassignments, saying they should have been reassigned to battalion chief instead of captain. (Photo/Kokomo Fire Department)
Three firefighters at the Kokomo Fire Department are suing the city over their reassignments, saying they should have been reassigned to battalion chief instead of captain. (Photo/Kokomo Fire Department)

In the complaint, the three firefighters argue they should be assigned to the rank of battalion chief since that is the rank they held before they were promoted to an upper-level policy-making position.

Under Indiana law, for a fire department the size of Kokomo’s, an upper-level policy-making position is the position of fire chief and the position immediately below it; in the case for the city of Kokomo that’s deputy chief.

Both Stackhouse and Hall were deputy chiefs before their reassignment to captain. Before their promotion to deputy chief, they held the position of battalion chief.

Glover was the city’s fire chief from 2014 until this year; prior to being assigned as fire chief, he held the position of fire inspector, a position Glover argues in the complaint is “part of the Battalion Chief position” – a claim the city denies in its response the complaint.

The three appealed their reassignment to the Board of Works on Jan. 13 and an appeal hearing was set by the board to be Jan. 29.

At that hearing, the three did not challenge their reassignments from fire and deputy chiefs, but did challenge their reassignment to captain, citing Indiana law.

A legal representative from the city argued on Jan 29. that, according to the collective bargaining agreement between the city and the fire union, positions above captain – Fire Chief, Deputy Chief, Battalion Chief and District Chief – are all upper-level policy-making positions and that the city – whether it be the mayor or the fire chief – can choose who to place in those upper-level policy-making positions.

The city also argued that the collective bargaining agreement only allows the city to have 14 people in the upper level policy making positions, and so if the city decided to assign Glover, Hall and Stackhouse to battalion chief, it would make that number 17.

Instead, the city argued, the rank Glover, Hall and Stackhouse had prior to battalion chief was captain, and therefore, the city was right in demoting them and paying them the rank of captain.

At the Feb. 5 Board of Works meeting, the board approved an order to make Stackhouse and Hall’s pay be the equivalent of battalion chief and Glover’s pay to that of fire inspector, which is the same as battalion chief.

“While the [collective bargaining] agreement recognizes additional positions are appointed by the Fire Chief, these positions are not defined in the agreement or state statute to be ‘upper level policy making positions,’” the board said in its order.

However, the three firefighters allege that after the Feb. 5 Board of Works meeting, Frazier told them “they were being reassigned to Private with Battalion Chief pay,” and therefore, the three firefightes argue in their complaint, they are “Privates for all purposes other than pay,” a claim the city denies in its response the complaint.

Glover, Hall and Stackhouse are asking Superior Court IV to mandate the three be placed in battalion chief positions.

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©2020 the Kokomo Tribune (Kokomo, Ind.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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