Fla. City Settles Suit with Fired Fire Captain for $200,000

Fla. City Settles Suit with Fired Fire Captain for $200,000

News Feb 14, 2013

Feb. 13--WEST PALM BEACH -- Rick Curtis, the former West Palm Beach firefighter captain who was fired for a DUI arrest for which he was later exonerated, has agreed to a $200,000 settlement from the city.

Mayor Jeri Muoio announced the settlement at her weekly news conference on Wednesday and said Curtis has already signed it.

"He has dropped his claim to be reinstated as an employee and dropped all lawsuits and pending lawsuits," Muoio said.

Curtis declined comment until city commissioners approve the settlement at next Tuesday's meeting. His attorney, Sid Garcia, said Curtis is "generally content with the settlement."

"Obviously he would love the idea of returning to his job and does feel he was unjustly terminated," Garcia said. "Given the posture of the case, he thought this would be in his best interest."

Curtis was fired from the department in 2011 following a DUI conviction. He was later awarded a retrial and was found not guilty and fought to get his job back. However, city officials said they fired him not just for the DUI conviction but for his behavior in a North Palm Beach jailhouse following the DUI arrest and for past disciplinary issues.

Curtis was also one of three African-American fire rescue workers who had unsuccessfully sued the city fire department, contending that they were denied promotions because of their race.

"We feel like this has been a really good situation for us," Muoio said. "We saw probably another eight years with a lot of high priced lawsuits, a lot more than the $200,000. The concessions that he gave us, we felt we were good."

In a separate case, Muoio said the city has not yet settled with former police officer William McCray, now with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office. In 2010, a jury awarded McCray $230,000 saying he endured years of discrimination, but last year an appeals court said the jury did not have a right to award him so much money. He has not yet collected the money and city officials said he has one of the worst disciplinary records in the department's history.

McCray, who has another outstanding lawsuit against the city alleging first and second amendment violations, said he turned down Muoio's offer of less than $20,000 when she took office and said he deserves more than $230,000.

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McCray said the city has spent "three or four times (the $230,000) defending this case."

City spokesman Elliot Cohen said Wednesday said the city could not provide specific figures on the amount they've spent on litigation but estimated that the Curtis case has cost the city "hundreds of thousands of dollars to date" and the McCray case has cost the city "well over $100,000."

Copyright 2013 - The Palm Beach Post, Fla.

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The Palm Beach Post, Fla.
Andrew Abramson
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