Today’s Burning Question: My fire department is currently without a fire chief. The city had an interim chief but civil service rules limit interims to four month terms and that time has expired. Can I sue the city to force them to appoint a fire chief?
Answer: You can in Nebraska! Scott Kuehl, a fire captain with the Grand Island Fire Department, and president of IAFF Local 647, filed suit on February 15, 2012 to force the city of Grand Island to appoint a fire chief. The suit is based on a Nebraska statute which reads as follows:
16-222.02. Employment of full-time fire chief; appointment; duties.
Not later than January 5, 2009, each city of the first class with a population in excess of thirty-seven thousand five hundred inhabitants shall employ a full-time fire chief with appropriate training, credentials, and experience and for whom firefighting or emergency medical first response is a full-time career. The fire chief shall be appointed by the mayor with the approval of the city council or by the city manager in cities that have adopted the city manager plan of government. The fire chief shall have the immediate superintendence of the fire prevention, fire suppression, and emergency medical first response services and the facilities and equipment related to such services of the city. The fire chief shall promulgate, implement, and enforce rules governing the actions and conduct of volunteer members of the department so as to be in conformity with the personnel policies of the city.
The action was filed in Hall County District Court and seeks a writ of mandamus ordering the city to appoint a fire chief “with all deliberate speed.” The city is claiming it is awaiting an ICMA public safety study.