Possession Of Crack Cocaine Costs Firefighter’s Job

Michael Giannini was a firefighter with the City of Huntington, West Virginia. On April 10, 2004, Giannini was arrested for possession of crack cocaine. When the City terminated Giannini, he began a series of appeals.

Initially, Giannini’s appeal was successful, when the Firemen’s Hearing Board concluded that he should be reinstated with back pay. The Board relied on the fact that Giannini had been an exemplary firefighter, had received a commendation for valor, and had no prior disciplinary action against him. The Board’s action was overturned by the Civil Service Commission, but was later reinstated by a trial court. The matter eventually wound up before the West Virginia Supreme Court.

The Court upheld Giannini’s termination. The Court found that “a firefighter’s possession of cocaine or crack cocaine constitutes misconduct of a substantial nature specifically related to and affecting the ability to perform tasks inherent in the employment and directly affecting the rights and interests of the public. A firefighter’s job is characterized by his or her responsibility to the public, and the health and mental acuity of public safety personnel are of utmost significance.”

Giannini v. Firemen’s Civil Service Commission of the City of Huntington, 2006 WL 3358876 (W.V. 2006).

This article appears in the January 2007 issue