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Waterford Settles Lawsuit For More Than $20k

Town Settles Suit With Firefighter Who Argued He Was Wrongfully Terminated

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.

The Case

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.

Johnny Habanero May 06, 2012 at 03:50 AM
Wowie Kaplowie.... What really happened here? The dirt that Waterford has done such as good job keeping under wraps, is finally unraveling. Probably more to come.......
fedspy May 07, 2012 at 04:17 PM
lawyers always get their money whether they win or lose. obviously there was a reason this person was fired, and obviously the recommendation came from the fire chief. whatever, case closed, but it costs the town dinero.
Ron Beck Sr May 24, 2012 at 01:24 PM
The town lost more than money. They lost a dedicated servant. The real same of the town's action was the incident that caused his termination occurred while he was working as a volunteer, not at his regular shift or post. How bad is that?
Breanna Homme July 02, 2012 at 05:03 AM
It makes you wonder what the town is trying so hard to hide that they would rather pay all that money than say what really happened... Think about it.

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