Rockland appeals to SJC to overturn suspension of black firefighters

BOSTON – Rockland is appealing to the Supreme Court of Justice for the third time as she continues to fight the reinstatement of a black firefighter fired from the department four years ago.

Lt. Craig Erickson, who spent decades in the fire department, was fired from his lieutenant position in 2017 after receiving paid sick leave while working for two other employers and did not cooperate in an investigation into his salary fraud.

Erickson said the dismissal was the result of years of discrimination within the department, in part because he was black and because he filed a complaint about another firefighter’s eligibility for promotion. The city says the layoff came after years of driving issues with Erickson, including disagreements with other firefighters and pay fraud.

The firefighter asked the State Civil Service Commission to investigate his dismissal, and the agency ruled in his favor. The commission said Erickson’s actions “clearly constituted serious misconduct” on the payroll issue, but found his discipline to be “a vivid and disturbing example of disparate treatment”. The ruling said the city had to rehire him after a 90-day suspension and demotion to the fire station.

Erickson appealed the suspension and the city has been fighting ever since.

The most recent appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice was filed earlier this month. Two weeks earlier, the Court of Appeal had ruled against Rockland in favor of the Civil Service Commission, prompting the city to appeal to the state’s highest court.

Lawyer John Clifford, who represents the city, said in the most recent lawsuit that Erickson should not be allowed to appeal his stay because he filed the late appeal. Clifford said the call arrived at the Civil Service Commission days after the deadline and was postmarked.

After:Court of Appeal rules against Rockland on appeal against firefighter

Rockland asked the superior court to dismiss the appeal and said he should never have been allowed to go ahead in the first place. The Court of Appeal disagreed and said the Civil Service Commission did nothing wrong when it allowed Erickson’s appeal to go ahead. The committee’s informal internal rules allowed non-postmarked appeals to arrive within days of the deadline. Otherwise, appeals had to be mailed before the deadline.

In Clifford’s recent Supreme Court application, Clifford said there is no evidence that the informal “mail handling rule” for handling postmarked calls even exists.

Firefighters use ladders to fight a five-alarm fire in January 2020 on Water Street in Rockland, where firefighters rescued a woman from the third floor.

“Such variable and unwritten parameters of a ‘rule’ is a classic example of arbitrariness and whim,” he said.

Erickson’s attorney, Michael Savage, said what Clifford is appealing is already established law. Savage said the real reason for appealing Rockland’s decision is to avoid any further investigation into Erickson’s initial dismissal by Fire Chief Scott Duffey.

In an email, Clifford said the actions of the Civil Service Commission were wrong in law.

“The decision of the Court of Appeal allows the Civil Service Commission to ignore a legal deadline of 10 days and to declare an appeal on time, regardless of the date of sending or receipt”, a- he declared. “We respectfully disagree with this decision and request a review by SJC. “

The Civil Service Commission overturned Erickson’s dismissal in a separate case and ordered his reinstatement after a 90-day suspension. the the city is also attractive this decision.

September 25, 2020:Rockland appeals for reinstatement of firefighter

Erickson is also suing the city in federal court for discrimination, claiming his dismissal was the result of years of discrimination within the department.

Our coverage of this case

June 18, 2021:Read the request for review in appeal filed by Rockland with the Supreme Court of Justice

June 8, 2021:Court of Appeal rules against Rockland on appeal against firefighter

September 25, 2020:Rockland appeals for reinstatement of firefighter

May 22, 2020:Public Service Board Rules in Rockland Firefighter Discrimination Case

December 10, 2019:Former Rockland firefighter sues department for racial discrimination

March 30, 2018:State cancels suspension of Rockland firefighter

March 29, 2018:Read the Civil Service Commission decision overturning Craig Erickson’s suspension

Contact reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at [email protected].

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