DEER LODGE — A former city employee, the City of Deer Lodge and council members have come to an agreement to dismiss a lawsuit with prejudice.
On Sept. 10, 2015, former Deer Lodge Fire Chief Sandy Porter sued the city, Mayor Zane Cozby and the city council for $750,000. Recently the parties met with a Montana Municipal Insurance representative as mediator to resolve the issue. Porter received $9,700 — the equivalent of three years’ salary as fire chief.
In his suit, Porter claimed the defendants did not give him pre-termination notice or opportunity for rebuttal regarding his performance or ability to perform fire chief duties. He claimed the action not to reappoint him as fire chief was wrongful and illegal resulting in future loss of income, emotional distress, and irreparable loss of reputation.
Deer Lodge is classified a Third Class city providing fire protection services through the Deer Lodge Volunteer Fire Department. After Mayor Cozby took office in January 2014, he and Porter had an initial meeting that Cozby said went well; but Porter claimed he had a feeling their relationship was “adversarial.”
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In June 2014, the council became concerned when Porter made a $5,964 tire purchase without following city procedures governing purchases in excess of $1,000. Porter was requested to attend the council meeting to discuss the purchase during which Porter argued he had no obligation to follow the procedure because he had a duty to keep the fire equipment “mission ready.” While the council was attempting to discuss the matter, Porter walked out of the meeting.
On another occasion when Mayor Cozby asked if Porter had received applications for new volunteers to fill vacant firefighting positions. Porter responded “It’s none of your (expletive) business,” and walked out of city hall. Porter later conceded he acted unprofessionally and also admitted using profanity and similar behavior in his interactions with the volunteer firefighters.
Porter was the city’s fire chief from March 1, 1993, to December 31, 2014.