Pelham settling another portion of firefighter lawsuit

Pelham leaders on March 3 moved to settle a portion of a lawsuit brought against the city by several current and former firefighters in 2010. (File)

Pelham leaders on March 3 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 $30,000 to settle a portion of a class-action lawsuit brought against the city in 2010 by a group of Pelham firefighters, after the Pelham City Council voted to approve the settlement during a March 3 meeting.

The council voted unanimously to approve the settlement one day before the lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial in U.S. District Court before District Court Judge Madeline Haikala. Because portions of the lawsuit were not settled as of March 3, the case was still scheduled to go to trial on March 4 in Birmingham.

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.

In February, the City Council voted to pay $170,000 to settle the Fair Labor Standards Act portion of the lawsuit, leaving the alleged civil service law portion remaining.

The settlement approved by the City Council on March 3 dealt with alleged holiday pay violations claimed in the lawsuit.

“This was one of the three remaining issues we still had left in the lawsuit,” City Council President Rick Hayes said during a March 3 interview, noting the settlement came as a result of mediation between the two sides of the lawsuit.

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.