Gloucester firefighters have voted to appeal the termination of their former union president, Clinton Carroll, who was fired by the city last August while under suspicion of having a romantic relationship with a then-13-year-old O’Maley Middle School student. The decision makes the union itself a party in the appeal, and means the fate of Carroll’s effort to get his job back will be determined by an arbitrator, instead of a state civil service commissioner.
The union is arguing that Mayor Carolyn Kirk fired Carroll hastily, without just cause and before gathering all of the relevant facts of case.
“The sentiment (of the union) was that the mayor terminated Clint before all the facts were in, before the charges were dropped,” said Bryan Decker, an lawyer representing the union said yesterday.
Gloucester police charged Carroll with indecent assault and battery of a child and reckless endangerment of a child at the end of July, after a month-long investigation spurred by concerns raised by the alleged victim’s family.
Kirk said the day after Carroll was arrested that she would try to fire him, and, after a mandatory two-week hearing process, did just that. But after a few months and multiple retractions by the alleged victim, Essex County prosecutors abandoned the case and Carroll was cleared of all charges in November.
Calling the charges against him politically motivated — and the criminal court result a vindication — Carroll appealed the case to the state Civil Service Commission, which settles disputes between workers protected by the civil service system, such as Gloucester firefighters, and their employers.
Carroll’s arrest and subsequent firing came during a period of contentious labor negotiations between the firefighters union and the city that had resulted in a series of lawsuits. Carroll was known for an aggressive and sometimes confrontational negotiating style.
Accounts of some of the negotiations described sessions that ended with one side storming out.
Reached by phone yesterday, Carroll referred questions about his case to Decker, but said that, while waiting for a hearing on his appeal, has been trying to find work and collect unemployment — a bid the city is also fighting.
The standard for firing a civil servant is just cause, and the standards of proving that are the same under the civil service commission and an arbitrator.
City Solicitor Suzanne Egan yesterday declined to comment on the case, other than to confirm that the civil service appeal had been withdrawn and the city would be heading to arbitration with the union.
Immediately after Carroll was arrested, Fire Chief Phil Dench said the grounds for suspending him were misuse of city resources. Carroll had received and made many calls to the alleged victim on the fire station phone.
When she announced Carroll’s firing Aug. 13, Kirk anticipated the possibility that Carroll might win in court.
“Regardless of the outcome of the court case, the city’s concern is that standards for employment be upheld,” Kirk said in a prepared statement. “There is sufficient evidence in this case which shows acceptable standards of conduct were not met.”