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Downey Fire Association Files Tort Claim Lawsuit Against City

Also names Chief Croom, Mayor, Councilmembers, and the City Manager

By Brian Hews

The Downey Firemen’s Association has filed a tort claim against the city of Downey regarding the alleged “ongoing retaliation, harassment, and discrimination the association has experienced from Chief Croom” after the association’s June 5, 2013 vote of no confidence against Croom.

The claim includes the City, Chief Croom, Mayor Vasquez, Councilmembers, and the City Manager.

The association included all parties “to the extent that they were aware of these unlawful events and failed to take corrective action to remedy this unlawful situation.”

The claimants are the Downey Firemen’s Association and it’s 49 members who signed the vote of no confidence.

The complaint went on to describe what led up to the tort claim and said it started prior to the vote of no confidence against Croom.

Prior to the vote “Chief Croom expressed general hostility towards the association and any members who exercised his or her free-speech, presumably pertaining to the upcoming vote.

It was alleged that Croom said to one captain that, “he was too pro-union.”

It also alleges that Croom warned VP Rasmussen that “he needed to be careful because he (Rasmussen) only had seven years with the department and he did not promote people who he (Croom) perceived as disloyal.”

The claim said the general hostility continued and became an “offense of retaliation” once the vote of no confidence was taken and delivered to Croom.

Chief Croom allegedly called the vote “a game changer” and said that the association “just crossed the line.” It also alleges that Croom’s wife Michelle publicly posted on the association’s Facebook page, “you 49 are a disgrace to your field and asked, is all of your bullshit worth it.”

The complaint cites examples of Croom’s retaliation including his refusal to fill the vacant Battalion Chief’s position ensuring that association members who voted no confidence did not obtain a promotion.

The claim said that four association members completed the BC exam and that the position was never filled. All four had signed the vote of no confidence.

It was alleged that Croom said, ”that unless every member of the association including the BC candidates signs the letter retracting the vote, he will never promote anyone from the list.”

Another allegation said that Croom “refuses to reactivate two paramedic firefighters” who signed the vote despite the city’s need for additional paramedic firefighters and that Croom “has initiated retaliatory disciplinary investigations against members who signed the vote for trivial conduct violations.”

The complaint says that the city must immediately undertake investigative action and implement remedial measures or face litigation including, among other things, violations of the First Amendment and Breach of Contract of the Memorandum of Understanding between the association and the city.

It is claiming that members are sustaining and will continue to sustain damages including but not limited to monetary damages and lost employment opportunities, asking for $10,000 at this time.

The letter warns that, “if the claim is not resolved, the claim will not be filed as a limited civil case.”

When contacted about the claim, Downey Councilman Mario Guerra said, “our Fire Chief has done an amazing job, worked hard through the ranks to achieve this honored position and I have full confidence in his ability to lead our fire department. He has implemented many progressive reforms that have increased safety and medical response times in our city. Our city is blessed to have him leading our fine fire department. He is the true meaning of public servant and has done a great job as Fire Chief for the Downey Fire Department and has the confidence of our entire Council and community.”

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