The actions of a former embattled Stanislaus Consolidated fire chief, who himself was the plaintiff of his own lawsuit last year, has resulted in the approval of settlements in three separate actions filed by subordinate employees in 2011 and 2012.
Members of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District Board approved those settlements on Thursday, June 19.
Steve Mayotte was the fire chief of the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District until June, 2013 when he was demoted following a lengthy and complicated disciplinary investigation that lasted well over a year. He subsequently retired last December after spending nearly a year on paid administrative leave.
Some of Mayotte’s discipline resulted from the three subordinates, each of whom sued the district and Chief Mayotte. Their suits allege that Mayotte engaged in sexual harassment, age discrimination, retaliation, defamation, intentional and negligent infliction of severe emotional distress, and discrimination on the basis of union affiliation.
The three employees, retired Captain John Smith, Captain Matthew “Buck” Condit, and administrative employee Mary Williams all used the Zumwalt Law Firm of Modesto to file their complaints. In 2006 the Zumwalt firm successfully represented a former Stanislaus Consolidated Deputy Fire Chief in his wrongful termination suit against the district with settlement of $900,000.
The settlement in these cases was only around $40,000.
“I think this case reflected that the parties involved were happy to see the district acted on their complaints of former Chief Mayotte,” said Graham Lopez of the Zumwalt firm. “I believe Mr. Mayotte is no longer chief with the district because of this.”
In obtained copies of the suits, Smith claimed Mayotte made disparaging remarks about his age (59 at the time) and “disqualified” him from further promotional testing for battalion chief on account of his age. In 2010, Smith took a written examination for the Battalion Chief position and was the oldest person taking the test. After passing, Smith received a letter from Mayotte informing him he was disqualified from further testing for the Battalion Chief position.
Smith stated Mayotte made age-related comments about him including during a training exercise, exclaiming in front of other firefighters that he expected to see Smith in the back of an ambulance with a broken hip or suffering from a stroke.
Smith also cited an occasion where Mayotte commented on his education by asking at his age, what did he plan to do with that education use it to “figure out your Social Security and Medicare payments?”
Condit’s complaint also centered around being passed over for promotion. He stated Mayotte made demeaning and vulgar sexually explicit remarks about him. After Condit protested about the inappropriateness, Mayotte reportedly retaliated by passing Condit over for promotion in favor of an outside candidate.
Condit filed a grievance against Mayotte and the union asked that the promotional process be delayed or not include Mayotte in the selection process. The district declined.
Williams claimed Mayotte ordered her to fraudulently alter district documents and when she refused, he terminated her. She also alleged that she complained about the chief’s derogatory comments about ethnic groups which she claims offended her, and that the chief created a sexually hostile work environment by making inappropriate comments.
Williams also alleges that the chief solicited her to be his “second wife” through another employee who “…badgered the plaintiff to take that position toward the Chief and start wearing an apron.
When Williams would refuse the offers, she would often get into verbal disagreements with the employee about being spoken to in such a fashion. The suit stated, “Mayotte would see these arguments, know what they were over and intentionally urge them on. He would literally sit back in some instances and claim he wanted to ‘watch the show’ about being Mayotte’s ‘second wife’.”
“The board is pleased that they’ve resolved all these matters and there’s no more pending litigation,” said Fire Chief Randall Bradley, who was hired earlier this year to replace Mayotte. “I think we can move on now.”
Bradley said the money would be paid from the district’s risk management account.