Former fireman sues Bay
By Stacey Cato
Mar 17, 2017, 18:01
A former Bay St. Louis firefighter has re-ignited the flames on a two-year-old alleged wrongful termination case.
This week, veteran fireman William “Billy” Schaff filed a federal lawsuit against the city; his then-supervisor, former Fire Chief Pam San Fillippo; and five other un-named firefighters in their official and individual capacities.
Before the city terminated his employment, Schaff had been serving as a fireman with both the Bay St. Louis Fire Department and the Picayune Fire Department for 15 years. According to his federal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, he was denied due process after suffering the loss of employment with the Bay St. Louis Fire Department.
Schaff and his attorney, James Bailey Halliday, say his complaint is for “injurious deprivation of his civil rights resulting in related and resultant damages against the defendants,” according to the suit.
Schaff claims that alternating shifts accommodated him in serving and protecting the citizens of both Bay St. Louis and Picayune and had caused no issues for many years. He was able to maintain an exemplary record of service and even held supervisory positions, the complaint says, until San Fillippo “initiated an arbitrary and capricious shift change without just cause,” resulting in his termination in 2014.
Schaff claims he was repeatedly disciplined for alleged tardiness due to the conflicting schedule change. The suit says the shift change was a “separate and additional punishment” for an alleged misconduct where he failed to properly respond to a call for service – for which he had already been disciplined by being relieved of his duties and suspended for three days.
He was again disciplined upon his return to work for the same issue, he said, and reassigned to a different shift that caused the conflict between the two job schedules. That made it impossible for Schaff to leave his Picayune Fire Department shift and make it on time for his Bay job, he said, which consequently led to a series of write-ups and continued discipline for his tardiness, ultimately causing him his job with the Bay St. Louis Fire Department.
After numerous attempts to resolve what Schaff and his attorney say was an “easily resolvable shift conflict,” San Fillippo refused to make any changes for the fireman, they say, by stating Schaff was being “punished” with his shift change.
Schaff claims he was denied both a pre-termination hearing and a post-termination hearing for the loss of his employment.
On April 17, 2014, Schaff filed his Notice of Appeal with the city of Bay St. Louis Civil Service Commission; however, he has yet to be granted a hearing.
As a vested civil servant, Schaff claims, he is procedurally protected by the “Due Process Clause” contained within the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and substantively protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Schaff now seeks to recover for the “gross violations of his due process.”
A lawsuit details only one side in a grievance.
The city of Bay St. Louis has not yet filed its response to Schaff’s complaint.