Friday, July 06, 2001

Ex-firefighter sues Mason, claims rights violated

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — A former Mason firefighter who was fired in March has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Mason and former chief H. Michael Drumm, accusing city officials of violating his civil rights.

        John W. Paquette, a part-time firefighter for 2 1/2 years, claims he was fired after he told city officials in an electronic memo about safety concerns he had related to low staffing in the fire department.

        The suit, filed in U.S. District Court last week, seeks at least $2 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

        Mason officials said Mr. Paquette was fired March 15 for reasons including unprofessional conduct, insubordination and using government property for personal use.

        “He was justifiably terminated,” said City Manager Scot F. Lahrmer, who declined to discuss details of the lawsuit.

        “The city believes his claims are baseless and without merit. The city will vigorously defend our position.”

        Cincinnati attorney Carrie Barron, who is representing Mr. Paquette, said her client is not guilty of any wrongdoing, and that Mason abused its power and violated Mr. Paquette's civil rights.

        According to the lawsuit, Mr. Paquette sent an anonymous e-mail outlining his concerns to officials in March. Several days later, Mason Detectives Michael Jessee and Scott Doughman showed up at his job at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and reviewed computer records.

        Police determined the anonymous e-mail was sent from Mr. Paquette's computer, the lawsuit said.

        Mr. Paquette, the lawsuit said, was interrogated about the source of the e-mail, though he did not admit to sending it. A day later, Mr. Paquette was told in a letter that he had been terminated for several reasons, including the e-mail, the lawsuit said.

        Among other claims, the lawsuit said Mr. Paquette was defamed and the city violated the “whistleblower” statute, which prohibits retaliation against public employees who disclose wrongdoing.

        Also named in the suit are several top city administrators, Detectives Jessee and Doughman, and members of city council.


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