Pelham settling portion of firefighter lawsuit

Published 8:29 am Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Pelham leaders moved to settle a portion of a lawsuit brought against the city by several current and former firefighters in 2010. (File)

Pelham leaders moved to settle a portion of a lawsuit brought against the city by several current and former firefighters in 2010. (File)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

Pelham will pay $170,000 to settle “about half” of a class-action lawsuit brought against the city in 2010 by a group of Pelham firefighters, the city’s mayor and City Council said during a Feb. 17 meeting.

During the meeting, the council voted unanimously to approve the proposed settlement, which still must be approved by a federal judge. Of the $170,000, $55,000 will be paid to the firefighters in the lawsuit and $115,000 will be paid to their attorneys, according to the council’s resolution.

The lawsuit, which since has become a class-action suit, was filed against Pelham in May 2010, and claimed Pelham violated the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the Pelham civil service law by allegedly not properly compensating the firefighters for overtime worked.

The original lawsuit was filed by current firefighters Kenneth Camp, Todd McCarver, Patrick Smith and Stephen Kiel and retired firefighter Randall Bearden.

The proposed settlement applies to the alleged Fair Labor Standards Act portion of the lawsuit, leaving the alleged civil service law portion remaining.

After the Feb. 17 meeting, City Council President Rick Hayes said a trial on the remaining portion of the lawsuit is still scheduled to begin on March 3 before District Court Judge Madeline Haikala.

The Pelham City Council’s Nov. 4, 2013, meeting agenda originally included a resolution to reject a proposed memorandum of understanding to settle the lawsuit for $610,000, but the item was removed from the agenda before the meeting and has not yet been voted on.

On Dec. 2, Birmingham Attorney Inge Johnstone, an attorney for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, filed a motion claiming the city negotiated the memorandum of understanding “in bad faith, knowing that the mayor and the city’s lawyers did not have the authority to agree to a settlement on behalf of the city, and had no idea whether the terms they agreed to would be approved or not.” He asked the court to enforce the proposed memorandum of understanding.

On Dec. 6, the city’s attorneys filed a motion asking the court to strike Johnstone’s motion, and claimed Johnstone sought to undermine the city’s right to a fair by issuing a press release regarding the case on Dec. 2.

Haikala did not act on either motions during the Dec. 13 hearing, and instead sent the case to a jury trial.