Northport Fire Chief Sues Mayor, Councilman Over Conspiracy to Fire Him
The city of Northport's Fire Chief and a battalion chief serving under him are suing the city, Mayor Donna Aaron, Councilman Robby Davis and six other individuals, accusing the group of conspiring to have them fired.
In a 22-page lawsuit filed Monday, Fire Chief Bart Marshall and Battalion Chief Richard Brown claim that the trouble started innocently enough -- at an unspecified date in 2016, a developer requested a burn permit to have a fire on their property to clear it for future building.
The lawsuit claims that Robby Davis lived in a subdivision adjoining the property in question, and that he contacted Battalion Chief Brown and told him not to issue the permit. When Brown said that the petitioner met all requirements for its issuance, Davis approached Marshall and made the same demand.
The lawsuit claims that Marshall and Brown opted to grant the permit despite Davis' protests and that Davis then told others at City Hall that he intended to run for a seat on the city council so he could personally fire Marshall and Brown.
Davis did run for city council in 2016 and was elected that October to represent Northport's District 4. He was inaugurated in November, and according to the chiefs' lawsuit, Davis began around March 2017 to make good on his promise and work to see Marshall and Brown fired.
Marshall and Brown allege that Davis and the other defendants in the lawsuit created a private email list they called "CODE BLACK" and then "used their email accounts to plot and plan various nefarious activities designed to carry out their plans to destroy the reputations and careers" of firefighters.
Chief Marshall and Battalion Chief Brown also allege that Mayor Donna Aaron was in on the conspiracy, and that she created a special mayor's committee in 2017 to "further aid the defendants in their efforts to harass, intimidate, inflict emotional distress and invade the privacy of the Plaintiffs."
Aaron did form such a committee, which consisted of Ronald Pool, Bruce Wade and Darryl Patterson, all former fire chiefs with 75 years of firefighting experience between them. All three are also defendants in the lawsuit.
Marshall and Brown claim that Davis, Aaron the retired chiefs and three others filed "frivolous, baseless and unfounded complaints" against them, stalked and spied on them, and participated in "wrongful and tortuous acts designed to harass, annoy, intimidate, defame and cause as much injury and damage" as possible.
The other three defendants are former city councilman Jody Jobson, NFR Captain Jerry Pruitt and former fire sergeant Cory Patterson.
Marshall claims he has been passed up for promotion, frivolously sued in federal court and more, all as part of this conspiracy to demote or fire him.
The complaint accuses the defendants of breach of fiduciary duty, harassment and hostile work environment, defamation, invasion of privacy, civil conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and abuse of process and malicious prosecution.
Marshall and Brown ask for a jury trial on all eight counts and that the defendants, if found liable, be made to pay compensatory and punitive damages, as well as the cost of the lawsuit.
The case will be heard by circuit judge John H. England, Jr.