KINGMAN - Six former Hualapai Valley firefighters filed a lawsuit Friday against the Hualapai Valley Fire District, its chief and its board members.
The lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Arizona charges the defendants with the unconstitutional termination of James Schnabel, Kamrin Dooley, Mike Carlson, Randall Nyberg, Jeff Campbell and Oscar Lopez.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiffs have been subjected to unlawful retaliation and discrimination. They are seeking compensation, damages, benefits, equitable and other relief.
As of Monday afternoon, HVFD Chief Wayne Eder said he had heard nothing of the lawsuit.
Each former firefighter claims that their termination was a result of being members of the United Professional Firefighters of Kingman, an affiliate of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The local union is comprised of firefighters employed by the Kingman Fire Department and the HVFD.
"We will protect our members' First Amendment rights, no matter how long it takes to correct this injustice," said IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger in a news release.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim Eder and board members made derogatory remarks about the firefighters' union and discouraged employees' enrollment. The plaintiffs also claim action was taken against them by the district after they raised concerns involving public safety, a hostile work environment and conduct of their supervisors.
"This is clearly a heavy-handed attempt to break the firefighters' association," said United Professional Firefighters of Kingman President Robert Borker in a news release.
"And to prevent it from speaking out on matters of legitimate public concern, such as the ability of HVFD to adequately protect its citizens."
In the lawsuit, Schnabel, Dooley, Carlson and Nyberg claim they were told by the HVFD that they were terminated for not successfully completing their probation.
They also claim they were informed that they couldn't appeal their terminations as outlined in the HVFD's personnel manual.
According to the lawsuit, Campbell was told he was terminated for failure to rebut charges claiming he allegedly harassed two firefighters on three separate occasions. Lopez was also terminated for failure to rebut charges claiming he allegedly harassed a firefighter.
"Unlike many fire departments, Chief Eder and the HVFD board have taken the position that you are either with us or against us," Borker said.
"Unfortunately, this approach negatively affects the ability of the fire district's firefighters to do their jobs as effectively as possible."