WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — A former Wyoming firefighter fired last week is suing the city, claiming he was let go because he worked part-time for another fire department and seeking more than $500,000.
Thomas Saladino worked full-time for the city of Wyoming for 23 years. He claims it was his part-time work as fire chief for Jamestown Township that led to his termination, along with his support of a state law that helps protect firefighters who answer calls for multiple departments.
“My client has been treated unfairly. He has worked long and hard for both departments. He’s a loyal employee,” Saladino’s attorney, Karie Boylan, told 24 Hour News 8 over the phone Tuesday.
Saladino started working for the Wyoming Fire Department full-time in 1997. Two years after that, he signed on as a paid on-call firefighter for Jamestown Township. He was promoted to chief — a part-time position — in 2009.
The lawsuit alleges that Wyoming Public Safety Director James Carmody was aware of Saladino’s dual employment and approved it each year. The suit says that changed in 2014 after Michigan passed what’s known as the “two-hatter” law, for which Saladino had advocated. The law ensures that an employee of a fire department may seek part-time or paid on-call employment with another fire department as long as it doesn’t conflict with his or her performance.
“Carmody didn’t want the statute. Carmody does not want anyone telling him what to do, in my opinion,” Boylan said.
The lawsuit alleges that just months after the law was passed, Carmody helped enact a policy that made firefighting employment “inherently in conflict” with any and all part-time positions elsewhere. Boylan argued that policy is unconstitutional.
“When someone tells him what to do — even if it’s something he would’ve done anyway — he’s going to retaliate,” she said of Carmody. “Because he wants to be the final arbiter of all decisions affecting all persons under the employment of the City of Wyoming — and that’s outside his capacity.”
In January of this year, Carmody denied Saladino’s request for dual employment. The lawsuit alleges that was based on concerns that Saladino was the Jamestown fire chief and responsible for the budget and stating there was “confusion” about where his employment with each agency started and ended. Saladino resigned as chief the next month, but stayed on with the Jamestown FD.
However, in July, the City of Wyoming accused Saladino of assisting with administrative tasks in Jamestown Township and opened an internal investigation.
Last week, he was fired.
Boylan was given documentation from Wyoming that listed the reasons for Saladino’s termination, but she wouldn’t tell 24 Hour News 8 specifically what those were, saying the details will come out later. 24 Hour News 8 has filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking Saladino’s personnel file from Wyoming, but has not yet received it.
Saladino filed the lawsuit against the city of Wyoming, Carmody, and city manager Curtis Holt in U.S. District Court on Aug. 11.
Holt on Tuesday issued a statement that denied the allegations in the lawsuit, saying:
“While we generally do not comment on pending litigation, we deny the allegations in the lawsuit brought by Mr. Saladino. We will vigorously defend the City and its representatives against these untrue claims.”
The city declined further comment.
Saladino has had at least one other employment problem as a firefighter. In 2008, he was suspended from the Byron Township Fire Department. It’s unclear why, but he no longer works for the department.
He also worked as a paid on-call fire chief in Salem Township within the past 10 years, but the township supervisor said Saladino resigned not long after he took over as Jamestown Fire Chief.
Saladino declined to comment over the phone Tuesday.