The former Fire Chief for the City of Washington is suing the city.
According to the Clerk of Courts, Jimmy Davis filed the lawsuit in civil court on Friday, citing wrongful termination.
Davis was fired in July 2009.
The city manager at the time, James Smith, did not release why Davis was terminated, citing personnel privacy as the reason for not disclosing that information. You can read previous stories and releases below.
Smith is listed in the lawsuit, as is Mayor Archie Jennings and city attorney Franz Holscher.
Previous Story from July 2009:
Washington's fire chief, who nearly two weeks ago was placed on administrative leave, says there is no justification for his removal.
In a statement released to WITN News Monday, Jimmy Davis says he is willing to discuss with city manager James Smith any matters that need to be addressed.
Smith placed the fire chief on leave, but has yet to publicly give any reasons. He did tell WITN that there were no criminal investigations ongoing involving Davis.
Davis says he sees no reason why he should not be allowed to return to work and says he just wants to be treated fairly.
"Any person in a position of leadership will not please everyone, especially when the leader is responsible for supervising other employees. However, there is no justification, documented or otherwise, rising to a level that might justify the city manager questioning my leadership or ability to serve as Chief of Fire/Rescue/EMS or in the capacity as head of Inspections and the city's Emergency Management Coordinator. My performance appraisals fly in the face of this action," Davis said in his statement.
WITN tried to contact Washington City Manager Jim Smith. We were notified he is on vacation this week. WITN is working to contact him.
Jimmy Davis Statement from July 2009:
James C. Smith, city manager for the City of Washington, announced last week that he placed James L. Davis, Fire/Rescue/EMS Chief for the City of Washington, on administrative leave with pay effective on June 16, 2009.
When asked why this action was taken, Chief Davis said, "Any person in a position of leadership will not please everyone, especially when the leader is responsible for supervising other employees. However, there is no justification, documented or otherwise, rising to a level that might justify the city manager questioning my leadership or ability to serve as Chief of Fire/Rescue/EMS or in the capacity as head of Inspections and the city's Emergency Management Coordinator. My performance appraisals fly in the face of this action."
Chief Davis said, "I have been advised by my attorneys not to respond at this point to the specific allegations made by the city manager. But, I know there is a lot of speculation out there. I hear it, too, and that is one of the reasons I'm trying to set the record straight. Based on my past performance evaluations, I am concerned that this action may have been based on matters that have nothing to do with the performance of my duties with the city. "
According to Davis, he has been appraised by the City of Washington as an employee with a performance rating of no less than a high performer demonstrating skills to perform his assigned jobs at a commendable level. Chief Davis has been commended by the City for his thorough understanding of fire fighting, fire prevention and related disciplines; monitoring spending closely and operating within budgetary guidelines; distinguishing himself as a decisive, forceful leader; possessing excellent knowledge of and application of emergency response procedures; making the first modern day appointment of a minority to a leadership position; successfully managing the construction of Station II on time and within budget; obtaining a grant to mitigate the expenses of additional staffing; handling problems and disputes fairly; reshaping the Inspections Division; facilitating improvements in organizational procedures; and developing skills and talents of employees under his supervision. According to Davis, during the most recent appraisal completed by the city manager, the city manager identified Davis as an employee the city manager could count on to get things done. The manager wrote that Chief Davis is a strong, largely successful manager who demands and expects high performance. Davis also points out that, under his leadership, the City of Washington has received its best fire protection rating in history.
The city manager announced last week during his comments to the Washington Daily News that there is no criminal investigation in this case. Davis confirms that he, too, is not aware of any criminal investigation in this matter. Since the completion of the most recent performance appraisal completed by the city manager, Davis is aware of no formal grievances alleging misconduct by him. Davis says there has never been any formal grievance alleging misconduct against him in his 25 years of service with the city. Davis said that he has had good working relationships with previous councils and managers.
Chief Davis is approximately 5 ½ years short of retiring with 30 years of service to the City of Washington. He began his employment with the City of Washington Fire Department on July 1, 1984. For the past 25 years, he has served the city and citizens of Washington without interruption and worked his way up through the ranks of the fire department until his appointment as Chief of Fire/Rescue/EMS in 2004. Chief Davis also serves as head of the Inspections Department and as the city's Emergency Management Coordinator. Chief Davis is a native of Washington, North Carolina and graduated from Washington High School before earning an Associates Degree in Fire Protection Technology. He is a Certified Fire Officer III with the State of North Carolina and serves on numerous Boards of Directors including the Eastern Carolina Critical Incident Stress Management Association, Eastern Carolina Firefighter's Association and Fire Protection Technology Programs for Wilson Technical Community College, Fayetteville Technical Community College and Fayetteville State University.
When asked about what he expects from the city in the coming days, Chief Davis said that the past week or so has been very difficult on his family. According to Davis, since the city manager released the information to the media about his leave with pay, he has heard from the small, but loud and angry group of individuals attacking Davis and his family - even attacking his children. "For the most part, these people have relied on the anonymity and speed of websites and message boards to do their damage," said Davis. He said that, in his opinion, those particular individuals have no regard for the facts. "But, I am mindful of their comments. More importantly, I thank those people in the community who have supported my family, especially my wife and children. My sisters, brother and mother have been hurt by this, too. I want the people to know that their support has sustained me and my family during this time of what we believe is undeserved and unnecessary humiliation."
Chief Davis indicated a willingness to discuss with the city manager any matters that need to be addressed. Davis says there is no reason not to allow him to return to work. His desire is for both he and the city to continue enjoying an employment relationship that has lasted almost three decades. "I just want to be treated fairly," said Davis.
Previous Story from July 2009:
Jimmy Davis is out as Fire-Rescue-EMS Chief in Washington.
WITN News learned just before noon that Davis has been "separated from his employment" and is no longer employed by the City of Washington.
Davis had been on administrative leave. WITN spoke to Davis after the news release was issued Friday morning. He said he did not realize a news release had been sent out. When asked if he resigned, Davis said "no, I did not resign."
City Manager Jim Smith says due to personnel guidelines, he can't release certain information. He did say this "was not a criminal matter."
Friday afternoon, Davis' attorney says the former chief asked for a grievance hearing under the city's personnel policy well before the announcement that the chief was no longer with the city.
The news release says Davis continues to wait for that hearing. It says the city's personnel policy allows Davis to confront and cross-examine witnesses with evidence against the former chief.
City of Washington News Release
From the Washington city manager's office in July 2009:
"State law allows me to confirm that the former City of Washington Fire Chief, James Laverne Davis, has been separated from his employment with and is no longer an employee of the City of Washington. Fire Division Chief, Robert Carl Rose, continues to serve as Acting Chief of the Fire Department. We are extremely confident that Acting Chief Rose is very capable of carrying out the duties assigned to him.
As more specifically explained below, the City is prohibited by law from providing any additional information other than the following. On June 17, 2009, I issued a news release indicating, among other things, that Washington Fire Chief James Laverne Davis had been placed on administrative leave. Personnel matters are confidential in accordance with North Carolina General Statutes and the City Personnel Policy.
Portions of this news release were disseminated the following day in media articles including in the Washington Daily News. Since that article, this situation has been the subject of various letters to the editor and at least one press release attributed to Mr. Davis.
Since personnel matters are otherwise confidential, the City, through its attorney, requested Mr. Davis execute a waiver that would allow the City to release certain information related to this situation. Mr. Davis, through his attorney, has declined to execute the waiver that would allow the City to release the information. As a result, the City continues to be prohibited by law from furnishing any additional information concerning this situation."
End of release
Davis News Release from July 2009:
PRESS RELEASE FROM JAMES L. DAVIS
REGARDING HIS GRIEVANCE WITH THE CITY OF WASHINGTON
On June 17, 2009, James C. Smith, manager for the City of Washington, issued a news release indicating, among other things, that he placed James L. Davis on administrative leave. On July 17, 2009, the city manager issued a press release indicating that the City of Washington Fire Chief, James L. Davis, has been separated from employment with the City of Washington. Well in advance of the city manager’s July 17, 2009 press release, Mr. Davis filed a formal grievance as is required by the personnel policy for the City of Washington. Mr. Davis has been waiting and continues to wait for the city to inform him of the date, time and location of the grievance hearing.
The grievance policy entitles him to confront and cross-examine witnesses who the city claims have evidence against Mr. Davis. Mr. Davis expects that, in advance of his grievance hearing, the city will provide him with a full disclosure of the identities of witnesses and evidence, if any, which the city claims to have in this matter so that Mr. Davis’ opportunity to confront and cross-examine witnesses will be a meaningful one. Following that process, Mr. Davis will consider whether or not other steps are necessary to address what he believes to be an unlawful termination.
The city manager’s July 17, 2009 press release states that Mr. Davis declined to execute a waiver that might allow the city to release certain information concerning this situation. Like every government employee, Mr. Davis has a right to the privacy of records contained in his personnel file. Unfortunately, he does not know all of the material contained in his personnel file, including the precise evidence the city alludes to in this case, because the city has not shared that information with Mr. Davis. It seems disingenuous for the city to suggest that it cannot defend its termination action because the city cannot discuss publicly what it has not even shared with Mr. Davis privately.
Mr. Davis looks forward to the opportunity to review the evidence the city claims to have and to question any witnesses which the city may have to support its position. Mr. Davis stands by his statement that he has not engaged in any wrongdoing. Mr. Davis believes that he deserves to be treated fairly and intends to make certain he is afforded every consideration the law allows.