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WESTMINSTER : Panel Upholds Fire Chief's Firing

September 18, 1993|BERT ELJERA

After six months of review, a citizen panel has concluded that city officials did not violate the law in firing former Fire Chief D'Wayne Scott in February.

In upholding Scott's termination, the Merit System Commission said that the former fire chief failed to "assume a high standard of conduct, set a good example, exercise good judgment and be loyal to the city."

The three-man panel reviewed the case from March to August after Scott, a 26-year veteran of the Fire Department and its chief since 1985, appealed his termination, which he called illegal and arbitrary. Scott had refused to send firefighters to the Los Angeles riots last spring, arguing that they could have been injured.

The commission, whose members are appointed by the City Council, investigates employee grievances against the city. It is the last administrative recourse before employees take their cases to court.

With the commission's findings, Scott said this week, he will file a wrongful termination suit against the city and has hired a Westminster lawyer, Thomas Brown, to represent him.

"I was told to exhaust all administrative remedies," Scott said. "Now I want to be vindicated in court."

The council accepted without comment the panel's findings this week. The dispute started when Scott refused to send firefighters during the riots.

The council overturned his order and Westminster firefighters did help put out riot fires.

Later, amid allegations from subordinates that Scott had an alcohol problem, the city asked him to take a psychological test to determine his fitness for work.

Scott refused, saying that to do so would be a violation of his privacy. He was suspended and later placed on administrative leave while the Merit System Commission conducted hearings on the case. The commission upheld the council's decision to suspend Scott, citing instances of drunken behavior, absences without permission and failure to exercise good judgment.

In February, City Manager Jerry Kenny fired Scott on the basis of the commission's findings. Scott then appealed to the commission, although he said it was merely procedural because he expected the commission to uphold the city's action.

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