NWFD SUIT TOSSED OUT - Tucson Local Media: Import


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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2001 12:00 am

Former Northwest Fire and Rescue District Capt. Kevin Madden's lawsuit against the district may have been dealt its coup de grace as his remaining complaints were dismissed in Pima County Superior Court Nov. 26.

With Judge Kenneth Lee's decision to grant the district summary judgment, Madden's suit against the district has been shut down, unless Madden appeals.

Madden has filed two suits against Northwest Fire, one in federal court and one in Pima County. The federal court lawsuit was also dismissed by summary judgment. Madden is appealing that decision.

Though he was arguing that the district had wrongfully terminated him, Madden was not seeking his job back. Instead the lawsuits asked for monetary damages as restitution for loss of employment and reputation.

Madden, whose mother Jane Madden is an NWFD Governing Board member, was fired by the district in August 1999 after seven years as an emergency medical technician. Madden claimed in his filings that he did not receive a hearing or an opportunity to defend himself and was slandered by district employees before and after his firing.

NWFD Capt. Robert Montijo was accused in the second lawsuit of telling firefighters in the Avra Valley Fire District, where Madden had applied for a job, that he was not trusted by his coworkers. Avra Valley shares a union local with Northwest Fire.

The federal lawsuit listed a number of other district employees but the Pima County suit limited its list of defendants to NWFD and Montijo.

A hearing for summary judgment Nov. 19 focused on whether Madden was entitled a termination hearing, said Thomas Benavidez, Northwest Fire's attorney.

"I was pretty sure this was going to be the result," Benavidez said. "When I went to the hearing the judge seemed to be asking the right questions, the questions we would want him to be asking."

Benavidez did not represent the district in the Madden lawsuit. Northwest Fire's insurance company instead decided to hire Carmine Brogna, from the law firm Goering, Roberts, Rubin, Brogna & Enos, to litigate the case. Brogna could not be reached for comment.

Madden did not argue the dismissal of his three allegations against Montijo, according to the decision's minute entry. With those counts removed all that remained was his due process claims, which had been denied already in the federal lawsuit.

"Central to the determination of the federal case was whether (Madden) was an at-will employee. The federal court found as a matter of law (Madden) was an at-will employee," the decision states.

Since Madden was not a member of NWFD's union, he could not request representation from it, Stephen Banzhaf, Madden's attorney, said during an interview in October. Banzhaf could not be reached for comment.

Banzhaf claimed that Madden's firing was partially the product of favoritism within Northwest Fire stemming from his decision not to join the union. Why Madden allowed his claims against Montijo to be dropped from the Pima County lawsuit is unclear.

Madden declined comment on the decision.

"I haven't even talked to my lawyer yet," he said.

Despite Northwest Fire's request to have its attorney's fees paid, the decision makes no mention of them and it is unlikely Madden will be required to pay them unless Lee makes a separate ruling, Benavidez said.

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