KALAMAZOO TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Following his termination, the former Kalamazoo Township fire chief is suing the township, its manager and its board of trustees in federal court, claiming he was never given the chance to defend himself against workplace harassment allegations.
In a 46-page filing, David Obreiter argues he was deprived of due process and was already presumed guilty by the township, calling their investigation against him a “sham.”
That investigation into the former fire chief stems from 2019, when a female firefighter reported inappropriate treatment by a male firefighter to Obreiter’s battalion chief, Matt Mulac.
After promptly following township and department policies, Obreiter said the accused firefighter was disciplined for his actions, but not suspended or fired.
The lawsuit says the same female firefighter made a second report to Mulac in May 2021, this time regarding Eastwood Fire Station management. He and Obreiter promptly addressed it.
Eight months later, in January 2022, the lawsuit claims the reporting firefighter contacted a Kalamazoo Township trustee and eventually met with her and Township Manager Dexter Mitchell, unbeknownst to Obreiter. Court documents claim they told her to provide an additional report only for them, which included allegations not mentioned in the original report or brought to fire management — all of which Obreiter denies.
The lawsuit claims Obreiter was deprived of due process when he was not given notice before “ambush-style” meetings with Mitchell and a private investigator, who at one point yelled at him, saying, “You knew about it! And You Did Nothing!!”
Throughout the process, the former chief said he was also not allowed to provide documents, see the investigative report, or ask questions in his defense.
Obreiter makes the same claims when he was notified without warning of a predetermination hearing for August 2022, given no updates on its outcome and terminated without warning the following month during his shift.
Following a formal request and hearing for his reinstatement, the lawsuit also says a motion for Obreiter’s reinstatement was scheduled for December 2022, but the board ended up seeking a new chief.
Obreiter argues the investigation by the township had “a preconceived outcome”.
The lawsuit demands a jury trial and seeks more than $75,000 in damages, or a court order for the township to reverse its findings against Obreiter and have him fully reinstated as fire chief with full backpay and benefit losses.
Mitchell declined to comment on the matter, saying the township hasn’t been served the lawsuit yet. Obreiter, his attorney, and the township’s attorney have yet to return requests for comment.