Sun-Herald

Judge dismisses case against Fire Dept.

A Sarasota County civil court judge threw out a case against the Englewood Area Fire Control District, which had been accused of violating the rights of a former firefighter under Florida's drug-free workplace laws when the firefighter was fired for testing positive for drugs.

The judge dismissed the allegation with prejudice at a hearing Thursday.

"If the plaintiff wants to, he can try to think of another story and file a new suit or appeal the judge's decision," said the attorney for the fire district, Todd Smayda. "Otherwise the allegations in this complaint are now thrown out for good.

"The fire district and I are very pleased about the ruling."

The suit claimed that in August 2001, the firefighter voluntarily and confidentially revealed to the former fire chief, Andy Rock, that he had a drug abuse problem and requested help with his addiction. The complaint does not state what type of drug the firefighter was using.

In the original complaint, the firefighter -- who was only named in the suit as "D.F." -- sought a declaratory judgment asking the court to decide whether the district failed to fulfill its legal obligations under Florida's drug-free workplace laws. He also claimed invasion of privacy, negligence and breach of confidential information.

In an amended complaint filed in February, all claims were dropped but the request for a declaratory judgment.

Fire district officials and Meyer would not release the name of the firefighter.

On March 13, 2002, the firefighter allegedly tested positive for drug use and was fired. Because of confidentiality laws regarding medical records, neither the district nor Meyer would comment on what type of treatment was offered to the firefighter prior to his termination.

You can e-mail Alyssa Schnugg at [email protected]


By ALYSSA SCHNUGG

Englewood Assistant Editor