Pensacola Politics

Former Pensacola fire chief sues Mayor Hayward, Olson and Sisson

August 25, 2016

Former Pensacola Fire Chief Matt Schmitt has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Mayor Ashton Hayward, City Administrator Eric Olson, Chief Human Resources Officer Ed Sisson, and the City of Pensacola. Hayward, Olson and Sisson are being sued individually and in their official capacities.

In May, Mayor Hayward fired Schmitt and Deputy Fire Chief Joe Glover after a three-month investigation by the Beggs & Lane law firm, at a cost that exceeded $60K. The mayor said he lost confidence in their leadership after reading the report on the investigation of allegations made by Sisson. Read more.

Schmitt states in the lawsuit that he complained to Olson on Sept. 3, 2015 that he felt that Sisson was racially discriminating against Deputy Chief Glover in regard to the deputy chief’s pay. They met again on Sept. 30. Olson took no action on the complaint and stated that Glover simply needed to move on, according to Schmitt.

On Dec. 4, Schmitt submitted paperwork to request pay increases for eight PFD employees, including himself. Olson denied Schmitt a raise.

In December, both Schmitt and Glover filed EEOC complaints. On Feb. 2, they were placed on administrative leave.

Schmitt alleges that Hayward, Olson and Sisson (Defendants) retaliated against him and acted with “malice and reckless disregard” toward him:

  • The decision by the City and the other Defendants to retaliate against Plaintiff by refusing a pay raise, subjecting him to a frivolous investigation, placing him on administrative leave, changing the appeals process in the HR Manual, and ultimately terminating his employment, amount to violations of Title VII and § 1981.
  • Defendants’ retaliatory conduct against Plaintiff has caused him to suffer emotional distress, humiliation, and embarrassment.
  • Defendants have acted with malice and reckless disregard toward Plaintiff and his federally protected rights.

Schmitt asks the Court to:

1. Issue a declaratory judgment that the employment policies, practices, procedures, conditions and customs of Defendants violate the rights of Plaintiff …

2. Grant Plaintiff a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants, its agents, successors, employees, attorneys, and those acting in concert with Defendants …

3. Enter an Order requiring Defendants to make Plaintiff whole by reinstating him into the position he would have occupied in the absence of retaliation or awarding him front pay, awarding him back-pay (plus interest), nominal damages, lost seniority, benefits, loss of pension, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and post judgment interest.

4. Plaintiff further prays for such other relief and benefits as the cause of justice may require, including, but not limited to, an award of costs, attorneys’ fees, and expenses.

Read Complaint-Schmitt v.City of Pensacola.

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