Fire agency settles tort claim filed by former deputy chief

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: May 3, 2012, 5:37 PM

 

Clark County Fire & Rescue has settled a tort claim filed by a former deputy chief, who alleged wrongful termination and age discrimination, by agreeing to pay him $60,000.

The settlement reached between Larry Bartel and the fire agency was approved April 25 by CCFR commissioners. The settlement will be paid by the fire agency’s insurance company, said CCFR Chief Dennis Mason.

A fire chief for 27 years, Bartel, 63, was laid off Jan. 1 after the fire commissioners decided at a November meeting that they no longer had the money to fund his position.

Mason had requested to fund Bartel’s position through June, but the commissioners voted 3 to 2 against it, then authorized a budget that removed Bartel’s position.

In his tort claim, which sought nearly $900,000, Bartel alleged age discrimination, wrongful termination, and loss of benefits and wages.

Mason said Bartel’s layoff was entirely financial. In 2010, CCFR lost $988,000 due to property devaluations. It had to lay off 19 part-time firefighters and two support staff, Mason said. The loss was $327,000 in 2011; this year, a loss of $185,000 is projected. Mason said in January that CCFR could afford Bartel for another six months, through June, but the board voted they needed more money in reserve.

Bartel, who served six years in other areas of fire service before becoming chief, was honored in January by many of his cohorts. Mason lauded him as a strong contribution to Ridgefield and La Center for decades.

Mason said Thursday: “It’s nice to have the issue behind us and move on.”

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.