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Former Cincinnati fire chief files wrongful termination lawsuit

Michael Washington claims he was not given prior notice of his firing or an opportunity to respond to any complaints

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By Leila Merrill

CINCINNATI — Former Cincinnati Fire Chief Michael Washington filed this week a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, the city manager and the mayor, WLWT reported.

The lawsuit comes one month after his firing; in it, Washington claims the city violated its own charter by terminating him without cause.

City Manager Sheryl Long announced Washington’s termination last month, citing an unwelcoming workplace culture towards women and her lost confidence in Washington’s ability to lead the department. Long stated that an assessment given by Women Helping Women revealed a “boys club” mentality under Washington’s leadership.


Image/Cincinnati Fire Department

Washington’s personnel file was clean and he had an exemplary 30-year career in the fire service. His attorney, Stephen Imm, commented that the city had no paper trail to justify the termination, calling it “manufactured” and “phony”.

The lawsuit claims that the city, city manager and mayor did not give Washington prior notice of his termination or an opportunity to be heard on the charges against him. It also states that Washington had not been given any complaints or issues concerning his performance or implementation of the Women Helping Women program.

Additionally, the lawsuit states that Washington’s inability to be present at the President’s Day fire at a high-rise apartment complex was “in no way a dereliction of his duty”.

Imm said that Washington’s termination does not constitute cause, stating that the City Charter does not “say that Chief Washington will remain in his position until the City Manager loses faith in him or loses confidence in him. You’ve got to have just cause to terminate him.”

Washington is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, as well as reinstatement to his former position. Assistant Chief of Fire and EMS Operations Division Steven Breitfelder has been named interim chief while the case is pending.