Tuesday, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved paying a former firefighter $20,000 in town funds, with the rest of the settlement being covered by the town's insurance company, after the firefighter alleged he was wrongly terminated in 2007.
John Hartke was a paid firefighter for the Goshen Fire Company from October 2005 until October 2007, when he was fired by First Selectman Dan Steward, according to a complaint written by Hartke’s attorney, Marc Mercier of Beck & Eldergill. Hartke sued the town in 2010 after he claimed he was wrongly terminated without cause and was denied an appeal.
When interviewed Friday, Steward refused to reveal the full amount of the settlement, saying the town will pay the insurance deductible, which is roughly $10,000, and an additional $10,000, with the rest being covered by insurance. He also refused all comment on the issue.
On Oct. 11, 2007 Steward fired Hartke from his job as a paid, full-time firefighter at the , according to Hartke's legal complaint. Steward did not have the authority to fire firefighters, as that was the power of the Board of Fire Commissioners, according to the complaint.
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In 2007 the Board of Fire Commissioners had control to hire and fire all paid firefighters in Waterford, according to the complaint. Hartke alleged Steward fired him without consulting the board.
Hartke also alleged that he asked for an appeal of the firing to the Board of Fire Commissioners, and was refused, according to the complaint. Hartke sued the town for both monetary damages and for the Board of Fire Commissioners to hold an appeal on his firing, or at least have Steward provide him with the reason why no appeal was granted.
In December of 2010, the town asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit. In August of 2011, a judge ruled against the town, paving the way for a trial.
The case was settled Tuesday, before a trial ever took place. In 2010, the town , and now Waterford's first selectman has the ability to hire and fire firefighters.
The reason Hartke was fired was not disclosed in court documents, and Steward refused to comment about it. Hartke will not be rehired, Steward said.