Former Iowa firefighter sues city over change to public safety officer model
Former Cedar Falls firefighter Scott Dix alleges the city let him go after he criticized the switch
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — The lone remaining member of the Cedar Falls firefighters union is taking the city to court alleging city officials violated his rights when they adopted the public safety officer model in 2020.
In a suit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids, Scott Dix alleges the city violated his First Amendment right to free speech because he was let go after voicing criticisms of the model, which uses cross-trained police officers and firefighters.
The suit also alleges he was targeted for taking part in union activities.
Dix is asking the court to rescind his discharge from the city and award damages for compensation and emotional distress as well and punitive damages.
The suit names as defendants former public safety director Jeff Olson, City Administrator Ron Gaines and City Council members Susan DeBuhr, Frank Darrah, Mark Miller, Darrell Kruse and Nick Taiber.
Dix, a 25-year firefighting veteran, and other fire union officials were vocally critical of the city's decision to adopt the cross-training model because of safety concerns. The city had been gradually adopting portions of the model for years.
Then the firefighter job classification was eliminated weeks after a 5-2 City Council vote to fully implement the public safety model in February 2020.
The remaining firefighters were placed on administrative leave. The city resisted a union request for bargaining following the council vote.
One firefighter joined the public safety officer program and the rest accepted a severance package, with the exception of Dix, who was laid off in June 2020.
Police officers who weren't cross-trained and police and fire supervisors who weren't cross-trained were allowed to remain, according to court records.
The suit comes after a state court judge in 2021 ordered the city to rewrite job qualifications for public safety supervisors following a challenge by Dix and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1366, and after an administrative law judge's finding that city officials had retaliated against the union in the public safety switch.
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