Firefighters file against city, chief

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 12, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

Fifty Suffolk firefighters on Thursday filed a federal lawsuit against the city and Fire Chief Mark Outlaw, alleging that their constitutional rights are being violated.

The suit, filed yesterday at U.S. District Court in Norfolk, charges that a September 2002 memo issued by Outlaw violates the firefighters’ rights to free speech, free association and the right to petition government for redress of grievances.


Email newsletter signup

The memo, directed to Firefighter J.R. Lilienthal, president of the Local 2801 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, ordered him to stop discussing fire department business and management issues with city administrators, department heads and City Council members. It also indicated that any outgoing communication must be reviewed by Outlaw’s office.

The memo threatened disciplinary action if Lilienthal did not follow the policy. During a December 2003 deposition, Outlaw cited possible disciplinary actions could include oral and written warnings, suspensions, demotions and termination.

Both in the memo and during the December hearing, Outlaw stated that policy is applicable to all firefighters.

In the lawsuit, the firefighters are asking the courts to issue a permanent injunction to prevent Outlaw and the city from using the policy. They are also seeking court costs and compensatory damages.

Firefighters named in the suit include Ernest S. Brower, Raphael E. Brown II, Brian A. Bunting, Margaret M. Bunting, Martina D. Campbell, Anthony Z. Carello, Christopher E. Connelly, Christopher D. Cornwell, William M. Copeland, Richard D. Creasy Jr., Scott P. Docteaur, David A. Espinosa, Michael J. Fernandez, Jeremy E. Gould, John M. Gray, David P. Harrell, Dwight D. Hawkins, Mark A. Hubbert, Steve H. Johnson, Michael W. Kielman, Pamela C. King, Robin L. Knife, Kimberly A. Marston, Deborah L. Miller, Michael E. Miller, Shawn E. Monroe, Theresa D. Monroe, Robert S. Moore, Shawn Moore, Kenneth W. Nelms, Darren E. Owen, David F. Pantschyschak, Bennett M. Parker, Eva M. Pitrone, Leon D. Ratliff Jr., Rick A. Ruppe, John D. Sudduth, David B. Sweat III, David A. Taylor, John E. Thrush, Frederick J. Walden, Lucas D. Weaver, Henry W. Wilkins, John D. Wilson, and William M. Yost.

Lilienthal filed a similar lawsuit against the city in March 2003, which has yet to be resolved. In September 2003, Judge Rebecca Bush denied the city’s attempt to have the suit dismissed.