SANTA ANA — Westminster's fire chief, who was placed on leave after he refused to send his firefighters to Los Angeles during the riots, has filed a lawsuit against his city, alleging that officials violated his privacy by demanding that he undergo psychiatric evaluation.
Fire Chief D'Wayne Scott, 51, a 22-year veteran of the Fire Department, was placed on paid administrative leave May 27, nearly a month after the Rodney G. King verdict sparked rioting in Los Angeles.
Before placing Scott on leave, which is to last at least a month, the City Council met in a closed session May 18 to discuss the chief's performance. After the meeting, Scott said in his lawsuit, City Manager Jerry Kenny requested that he undergo psychiatric and psychology tests to evaluate an alleged drinking problem and how it has "adversely affected" his performance as chief.
In his lawsuit, Scott neither confirms nor denies that he has an alcohol problem. However, he argues, if city officials suspected that he did, then under city policy they should have allowed him to seek consultation on his own.
The city has no right, the chief alleges, to foist on him a mandatory mental evaluation.
City officials did not return phone calls Wednesday.
Scott's lawsuit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, states that he was placed on leave when he refused to participate in the mandatory tests. Scott contends that city officials violated his privacy and personnel rights, along with his right of due process, when they met in "secret" and discussed his job performance without telling him before or after the meeting what they talked about.
Although told he had been placed on leave because he refused to be evaluated, Scott said in the lawsuit that the real reason for his suspension was his decision not to send firefighters to aid Los Angeles County on April 29. The City Council reversed his decision the next day.
Scott maintains in his lawsuit that his action was appropriate at the time because there was inadequate police protection for his firefighters. Furthermore, he said, he told Kenny of his decision on two separate occasions that first night, and Kenny did not reply one way or the other.
The lawsuit asked a judge to rule that the city has no right to force Scott to be evaluated and to reinstate him to his job. It also seeks to stop city officials from continuing their investigation of Scott in closed meetings.