Whistleblower lawsuit filed against Chelsea Area Fire Authority
A former Chelsea Area Fire Authority lieutenant alleges in a federal lawsuit that he was demoted for publicly criticizing a superior’s decision to transport a gunshot victim to a hospital in a fire truck.
Matthew W. Rose has filed a lawsuit against the Chelsea Area Fire Authority and Chief Jim Payeur, alleging violations of his right to free speech and of the Michigan Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.
The suit, filed last week in federal court in Detroit, seeks an unspecified amount of money. Payeur declined to comment today, saying he wasn't aware of the lawsuit.
Payeur demoted Rose from lieutenant to firefighter, the suit alleges, after Rose publicly criticized Capt. Chris Smyth's decision on July 18 to take the female victim in the truck to Chelsea Community Hospital. She had been shot in the torso and emergency vehicles were dispatched to meet the private vehicle in which she was traveling, the suit says.
Firefighters reached the victim before an ambulance, according to the lawsuit. Smyth ordered Rose and other firefighters to put the victim in a truck and take her to Chelsea Community Hospital, the suit claims. Rose alleges that firefighters violated Washtenaw/Livingston Medical Control Authority procedure and state law by not ensuring the victim's complete vital signs were taken and she was stable before she was transported.
As a result of the alleged failure to follow protocol, the suit says, the victim was taken to Chelsea Community Hospital, which wasn't equipped to deal with such a patient. Ultimately, the victim was transferred to University of Michigan Hospital, but proper medical care had been delayed by more than 19 minutes, according to the lawsuit. The suit claims an ambulance was nearby when the victim was put in the truck.
Rose alleges Payeur retaliated against him after he voiced his concerns to Smyth, to staff at Chelsea Community Hospital and later to Payeur.
The lawsuit claims Payeur investigated the incident and demoted Rose to firefighter on Nov. 20 and put him on probation. Payeur's decision was partially outlined in a Nov. 9 memo directed, in part, to Rose, the suit says.
"Matt you need to know that a lack of confidence in you on the part of your leadership, skills and abilities had been brought to my attention by several members of this department," the memo says. "There is a feeling out there that you do not have their backs. You lost a lot of credibility over your actions on the Engine Transport, speaking out in public against the actions taken by Captain Smyth. Professionalism, responsibility and maturity would follow the chain of command and in a manner that does not embarrass the department."
Rose resigned Nov. 21, a day after being demoted. He resigned in part, the lawsuit says, because the firefighter position he was demoted to was funded under grant money that could potentially run out.
Rose now works for Huron Valley Ambulance, according to the lawsuit.
Lee Higgins is a reporter for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached by phone at (734) 623-2527 and email at firstname.lastname@example.org.