By Ryan Lengerich: CNJ STAFF WRITER
Former Clovis Fire Chief Sam McCallie has agreed to a $15,000 settlement with the city of Clovis and its city manager after attempting to sue for wrongful termination in January 2003.
McCallie’s lawyer, Eric Dixon of Portales, said the city also agreed not to challenge $9,000 in unemployment compensation.
According to court documents, a judge had issued a summary judgment in favor of the city on three of five counts. A summary judgment is issued when a judge decides no issue exists for a trial based on the facts presented.
Dixon said a trial had been set for the two remaining counts that included wrongful termination, but McCallie and the city were able to compromise.
In a press release issued by the city’s Albuquerque-based attorney Virginia Anderman, the settlement was made to “avoid further expenses of litigation.”
Dixon said the city and its attorney are attempting to show the public they won the case.
“They basically lost the case as a result of wrongfully terminating Mr. McCallie,” Dixon said. “They had to pay.”
McCallie filed suit against the city and City Manager Raymond Mondragon on Jan. 22, 2003, saying he was fired in retaliation for requesting increased pay and staff for his department. The lawsuit claimed the city fired him for exercising free speech and there was a breach of contract.
At the time, McCallie called the Jan. 16, 2003, firing, “unjustified.” He did not return multiple phone calls placed to his residence on Monday.
“In my opinion, the city of Clovis and I, the city manager, have been vindicated by this,” Mondragon said.
Mondragon said he was willing to go to trial, but was advised by Anderman to accept a settlement.
Anderman could not be reached Tuesday.
In 2003, McCallie said he pushed the city to hire more firefighters so four could work at each fire station on each shift. National Fire Protection Association mandates require at least four firefighters are needed to handle any structure fire; firefighters from other stations sometimes had to be called to fill the void.
Mondragon declined Tuesday to comment on his reasons for firing McCallie. Court records indicate Mondragon fired him because he failed to notify the city commission of an increase in staffing levels, which led the department to exceed its budget. A second reason cited was McCallie’s lack of leadership within the department and his lack of communication with the city manager’s office.
“It is time we just go forward and do what we have to do to make things better for the city of Clovis,” Mondragon said. “I knew from day one that the city was in the right and we did the things we needed to do.”