Friday, July 27, 2001

Fighting firing


Candidate in Mason suing city

map
        John Paquette believes he can fight city hall. And win an election, too.

        If he succeeds at the polls, he will serve on Mason's seven-member City Council.

        But, he'll have won more than a seat in city hall. He will become one of the bosses of the people who once fired him.

        The irony in this possible sequence of events heightened my curiosity. So, I asked John to tell me his story.

        He used to be a part-time firefighter for the city of Mason. He lost his job in March.

        He claims officials of the Warren County city fired him for sending an anonymous e-mail message to members of the fire department.

        John told me the e-mail called attention to safety concerns raised by reduced staffing and the shortcomings of Fire Chief H. Michael Drumm.

Paquette
Paquette
        Dogged by controversy, the chief resigned in May.

        But not before the city fired John Paquette.

        John appealed to Mason officials to get his job back.

        It pays $9.73 an hour.

        He doesn't need the money.

        “I have a great full-time job,” he said. “I drive a nice car and live in a big house.”

        He spent 2 1/2 years fighting fires and became an emergency medical technician for one reason. “I wanted to give something back to my community.

        “Other than my wife and my babies and my full-time job, being a firefighter is the one thing I adore.”

        Some people golf. Others bowl.

        John Paquette's different. “I like to fight fires and help people.”

        Exhausting his appeals, he sued Mason and a raft of city officials in June. His federal lawsuit claims his civil rights were violated. The suit seeks at least $3 million in damages and the return of John's old job.

        Mason City Manager Scot Lahrmer has said John was “justifiably terminated.”

        I'm not going to debate the merits of John's case against Mason and its officials. That's for a court of law to decide.

        I am interested in finding out what moved him — one week after suing Mason — to run for City Council. Thirteen Mason-ites have taken out petitions to land one of the four seats that will be filled in November. Of the 13 prospective candidates, four have turned in their petitions. Included in that number is John Paquette.

        “I'm running because I don't want to be known as the town crank,” he said.

        “I don't just blow the whistle, get fired and then sue the city.

        “I want to put my skin in the game.”

        This is his first try for public office. He's running on a platform to make Mason more customer-friendly.

        “Mason's government has been too arrogant to its people,” he said. “The city must keep its customers satisfied.”

        John swears his name is not on the ballot out of revenge.

        “It's not about payback,” he said. “It's about what's good for the community.”

        No matter how his lawsuit turns out, the effects of the Paquette for Council campaign could spill over Mason's borders.

        His cause could give pause to city officials everywhere. The next time they consider sacking an employee, they might think twice. That worker they're about to fire could become one of the city's bosses on Election Day.

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.

       



Cop kills gunman in shootout
Olympic pitch well-received
Anesthesiologists in short supply
Rain brings more flooding to soggy Tristate
She can forgive, but can't forget
Bridge study may start early
Colerain man charged with abduction, assault
DeWine asks for more money for police overtime
Fund to aid mother's family
Tristate A.M. Report
UC told it can afford faculty raises
Local school committees to be trained
Merchants, residents grateful for patrols
More charges filed in saliva-throwing case
Task force to get 2nd prosecutor
- RADEL: Fighting firing
Charges urged against operator
Man held in slaying, alleged rape
Miami-Talawanda partnership expected to benefit community
Non-Muslims welcome
10-year-old's flight canceled, but airline forgot to tell dad
New clinic will treat tiniest newborns
Projects with matching funds have better shot at Clean Ohio grants
Carnegie Arts Center more accessible
Democrat resigns party posts
Firehouse merger talks OK'd
Kenton, Boone to share police work
Kentucky News Briefs
Ky. mining commissioner dies
Lawyer: Barge firm free of blame in fatal crash
N.Ky. United Way chief: Giving should be a joy
Property tax given scrutiny