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Ex-firefighter threatens legal action if he doesn't get his job back


Roeher claims firing was result of chief's harassment, not alleged drunkeness



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September 08, 2010 - A former Oxford firefighter who was terminated in May after he allegedly reported for duty while intoxicated wants his old job back and he's hired a lawyer to get it.

Ex-Capt. Terry Roeher, an 18-year veteran of the fire department, claims his firing was not the result of any wrongdoing on his part, but was instead the culmination of a campaign of "hostility" and "harassment" perpetrated against him by Fire Chief Pete Scholz.

As such, Roeher is looking to be "immediately" reinstated to his former position, reimbursed for all of his lost pay and benefits, compensated for his legal fees and costs, and "afforded appropriate and reasonable protections against any further wrongful harassment by Chief (Pete) Scholz," according to an Aug. 27 letter sent to the township by his attorney, Dana L. Ramsay, of the Lake Orion-based Wolf Law Firm.

Scholz declined to comment on the attorney's letter and Roeher's claims.

"I'd rather not (comment) at this point because technically all it's asking for is reinstatement, there's no lawsuit involved yet," the chief said.

In her letter, Ramsay informed township Supervisor Bill Dunn that all of the listed demands must be met in order "to avoid further action against Chief Scholz and/or the township."

The township was given until the end of business on Tuesday, Sept. 7 to respond.

Dunn indicated the township's insurance carrier is in the process of crafting a response on the municipality's behalf. "Other than that, that's all I can say," the supervisor said.

Roeher, who still resides in Oxford, was fired from the department on May 13.

"Following an investigation, you have been found to have reported to work for your scheduled shift on May 9, 2010 smelling of alcohol, intoxicated and in an unfit condition to perform your duties," wrote Scholz in Roeher's notice of termination.

The shift in question was scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. and last 24 hours.

However, according to the letter from Roeher's attorney, the former captain showed up at the fire station that day not to perform his duties, but "for the purpose of advising that he was unable to work and to obtain coverage for his shift."

The termination notice also contained a list of 10 alleged incidents for which Roeher had been disciplined between March 2002 and March 2010 (see Terry Roeher's disciplinary history).

"Your behavior on May 9, 2010, as well as the actions indicated by your disciplinary record, has repeatedly demonstrated your refusal to behave in a professional manner and otherwise carry out your duties as a member of the Oxford Fire Department in a manner appropriate to your position," Scholz wrote.

But Ramsay claims Roeher's termination was a "violation of written department policy" and based "on invalid and pretextual grounds."

"Indeed, in a woeful attempt to justify the termination of Capt. Roeher, Chief Scholz was forced to invent facts and incidents which never occurred, and 'dig up' matters allegedly occurring as much as eight years prior to the termination matters which should not have been retained in any files maintained by the department, let alone used as a basis for disciplinary action in 2010," the attorney wrote.

The laundry list of disciplinary actions cited as the pretext for Roeher's firing were, according to Ramsay, a mix of "untrue allegations" and reports that remained in his file "years after they were required to be removed" per department policy.

She cited the June 2009 incident involving Roeher allegedly leaving work without notifying anyone as an example where the facts were lacking. Ramsay indicated that Roeher left because he was ill and "properly notified the secretary and virtually every individual present."

Ramsay claimed Roeher's firing was "motivated" by Scholz's "anti-union animosity and in retaliation for (his) utilization of union representation."

"In an attempt to harass and intimidate Terry Roeher, Chief Scholz had, for over two years prior to (his) termination, placed (the ex-captain) under intense scrutiny, intentionally subjected him to continuing verbal abuse and harassment, subjected him to improper, unjustified, and disproportionate disciplinary action," she wrote.

Ramsay claims Scholz failed to discipline other firefighters for the same alleged misconduct of which Roeher was accused.

She wrote that Roeher was punished for "minor infractions of policy," while other fire employees "engaged in serious, prohibited misconduct without receiving disciplinary action."

Ramsay did not return a phone call seeking comment beyond what was contained in her letter.

Questions were relayed to her colleague, attorney Allen Wolf, but Ramsay did not respond. The termination notice also contained a list of 10 alleged incidents for which Roeher had been disciplined between March 2002 and March 2010 (see red-shaded box on front page).

"Your behavior on May 9, 2010, as well as the actions indicated by your disciplinary record, has repeatedly demonstrated your refusal to behave in a professional manner and otherwise carry out your duties as a member of the Oxford Fire Department in a manner appropriate to your position," Scholz wrote.

But Ramsay claims Roeher's termination was "a violation of written department policy" and based "on invalid and pretextual grounds."

"Indeed, in a woeful attempt to justify the termination of Capt. Roeher, Chief Scholz was forced to invent facts and incidents which never occurred, and 'dig up' matters allegedly occurring as much as eight years prior to the termination matters which should not have been retained in any files maintained by the department, let alone used as a basis for disciplinary action in 2010," the attorney wrote.

The laundry list of disciplinary actions cited as the pretext for Roeher's firing were, according to Ramsay, a mix of "untrue allegations" and reports that remained in his file "years after they were required to be removed" per department policy.

She cited the June 2009 incident involving Roeher allegedly leaving work without notifying anyone as an example where the facts were lacking. Ramsay indicated that Roeher left because he was ill and "properly notified the secretary and virtually every individual present."

Ramsay claimed Roeher's firing was "motivated" by Scholz's "anti-union animosity and in retaliation for (his) utilization of union representation."

"In an attempt to harass and intimidate Terry Roeher, Chief Scholz has, for over two years prior to (his) termination, placed (the ex-captain) under intense scrutiny, intentionally subjected him to continuing verbal abuse and harassment, subjected him to improper, unjustified, and disproportionate disciplinary action," she wrote.

Ramsay claims Scholz failed to discipline other firefighters for the same alleged misconduct Roeher was accused of.

She wrote that Roeher was punished for "minor infractions of policy," while other employees "engaged in serious, prohibited misconduct without receiving disciplinary action."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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