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Former Longview fire chief loses appeal

By Christina Lane
March 26, 2012 at 11 p.m.


A state appellate court in Texarkana has ruled against former Longview Fire Chief Michael Pruitt, reaffirming a trial court's decision of dismissing his case against fellow firefighters.

In his opinion, 6th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jack Carter said Pruitt's petition, arguments in court and the facts of the case led him to the belief Pruitt's complaints "could have been resolved through Chapter 21's (of the labor code) administrative procedures."

The appeal stemmed from a case Pruitt, who was fired in 2009, filed against the International Association of Firefighters, AFL-CIO and the Longview Professional Firefighters Association Local No. 4331 and its officers. It claimed that after Pruitt was fired, the associations did not assist him in his battle with the City of Longview.

It went to the appeals court after a ruling a year ago by 124th District Court Judge Alfonso Charles, which eliminated all parties from the lawsuit.

Earlier, in a claim filed against the city with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Pruitt said his firing was racially motivated and amounted to retaliation against him by city employees. He dropped that claim and agreed not to sue after the city paid him $130,000 and provided a letter acknowledging his accomplishments as fire chief.

That earlier case formed at least a partial basis for Charles' ruling in April 2011.

According to Pruitt's petition to the Court of Appeals, "Almost immediately after assuming the position of Fire Chief, and undertaking the duties attendant thereto, Chief Pruitt was singled out, ostracized and undermined by the officers and members of local." He believed "that he was so treated because he is of African American descent, a first for the position of Fire Chief."

Pruitt claimed in his petition that other Longview firefighters were seeking his position and started a campaign to undermine him by having a questionnaire regarding Pruitt's performance sent to members of the department.

Pruitt was placed on a probationary period and fired Nov. 12, 2009.

The lawsuit claimed that after Pruitt was fired, the association did not assist him in his battle with the City of Longview. In his EEOC claim, Pruitt said his firing was racially motivated and amounted to retaliation against him by city employees.

Douglas Steele, who represented the International Association of Firefighters, said the claim against the IAFF should be dismissed because it had no prior knowledge of the incident between Pruitt and the city aside from a letter discussing the lawsuit before it was filed.

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