NEW ORLEANS (CN) – A firefighter claims the Terrytown fire chief fired him for going to the media with complaints that the chief drove a city vehicle drunk, had firefighters chauffeur him home drunk from bars, and made them wax and polish his girlfriend’s car on the clock.
Dale Blanchard says that the Terrytown Fifth District Volunteer Fire Department, in suburban New Orleans, is almost entirely under the control of the fire chief, Bryan Adams.
“As the chief of Terrytown Fire, Bryan Adams has almost limitless discretion in the manner in which he runs the department. Chief Adams is checked only by the Board, which only occasionally reviews the chief’s personnel and management decisions when requested to do so by the chief. The official policy and procedure handbook is not normally given to employees. Essentially, employees of Terrytown Fire understand that the policies are whatever Chief Adams says they are,” Blanchard says in his federal complaint.
Blanchard adds: “Adams has driven his official Terrytown Fire vehicle, a
Ford Expedition SUV, while apparently under the influence of alcohol, and on-duty personnel have been made to leave their duty stations to pick up the inebriated chief at night clubs and bars. … Chief Adams on other occasions has caused fire department personnel to spend duty time waxing and polishing his girlfriend’s automobile.”
Blanchard says he contacted the media on June 1, “as a taxpayer to address issues of concern to the community regarding abuses of official Terrytown Fire property and taxpayer money.”
Two days later, he says, Adams fired him without cause. Blanchard had been earning $51,000 a year.
Blanchard says that when he informed the public about Adam’s behavior, “the chief knew or should have known that Blanchard had a constitutionally protected right to comment publicly on issues of concern to the general public. Chief Adams gave absolutely no reason whatsoever for the termination.
“Chief Adams acted with malice and reckless disregard of Blanchard’s constitutionally protected rights. When Blanchard was terminated on June 3, 2011, his health insurance was canceled effective May 31, 2011, three days earlier. Furthermore, Blanchard was given no notice of termination and no opportunity to meet with the Board about his termination, which was the usual practice of Terrytown Fire.” (4) Blanchard says.
Blanchard seeks reinstatement, lost wages and punitive damages for retaliation and wrongful termination.
He is represented by Dale Williams of Covington, La.