ELYRIA — Nine Elyria firefighters will receive a portion of more than $53,000 to settle back wages stemming from a 2009 lawsuit filed by Fire Department employees after they were demoted.
The nine officers — at the time eight lieutenants and one captain — were demoted based on seniority level in the department nearly five years ago when city officials were trying to save money. Almost immediately after the Civil Service Commission upheld the city’s decision, the firefighters sued on the grounds the demotions were illegal based on the Ohio Revised Code and their collective bargaining agreement.
“Basically, it boils down to how the demotions were handled,” Fire Chief Richard Benton said. “The city demoted based on the length of time the firefighter was with the department, and the firefighters in the lawsuit felt it should have been based on the time the firefighter was in the officer classification, which the court (9th District Court of Appeals) ultimately upheld.”
City leaders cut supervisors in 2009 to balance the number of officers in relation to the number of firefighters. The plan also was presented as a way to save $100,000 a year.
“But I really think this ended up costing us money,” said Law Director Scott Serazin.
Serazin presented City Council members with the settlement figure Monday night. Although it is more than what the city originally offered to the affected firefighters, it is less than their counter-proposal, he said.
“It’s a meeting in the middle so we can settle this case once and for all,” he said.
It has been more than a year since a tentative settlement was reached, but pension issues held up approval.
Benton said his department did not save money with the demotions.
“It ended up costing us quite a bit more when you count acting officer pay and all the litigation that went into this,” he said.
All of the demoted officers since have been reinstated in rank and/or retired. Three lieutenant positions that were abolished in 2009 have not returned, Benton said.
- Lt. Karl Weber (retired), $4,161.88
- Capt. Carl Mark, $4,313.39
- Lt. Robert Novak (retired), $10,892.58
- Lt. William Gall, $5,552.96
- Lt. David Knowlton, $6,686.60
- Capt. Jamison Norris, $2,690.80
- Capt. Carl Mandoke, $3,125.45
- Capt. Kevin Szabo, $7,352.13
- Capt. Dean Marks, $8,407.45