In Indiana, Settlement With Fire Chief Not Necessarily Binding

John Iseminger is a firefighter with the City of Kokomo, Indiana. On June 9, 2006, Iseminger reported to duty and participated in an emergency run while under the influence of alcohol.

After a disciplinary investigation, Iseminger, the Fire Chief, and Iseminger’s labor organization reached a private settlement agreement which disposed of all disciplinary charges and included a penalty of more than five days of suspended leave without pay.

The Kokomo Board of Public Works and Safety learned of the settlement, and notified Iseminger, the Chief, and the Union that the Board would not recognize the parties’ agreement until the Board was apprised of the facts and approved the settlement. Before the Board’s hearing, Iseminger and the Union filed a complaint with the Court seeking a declaratory judgment and an injunction asking the Court to enjoin the Board from holding any further hearings related to the matter and from refusing to recognize the validity of the agreement.

The Indiana Court of Appeals sided with the Board. The Court quoted from a state statute providing that “the Safety Board of the City shall administer the police and fire departments of the City and has exclusive control over all matters and properties relating to the Fire Department.” The Court found that “the statute clearly states that the Board has exclusive control over all matters relating to the Fire Department. In addition, the Board may adopt rules for the government and discipline with the Fire Department. The settlement of a disciplinary matter such as the one in this case is consistent with the Board’s authority.”

City of Kokomo v. Iseminger, 2007 WL 1881267 (Ind.App. 2007).

This article appears in the August 2007 issue