Former Montague fire chief is target of federal lawsuit

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MONTAGUE, Mich. — A veteran firefighter is taking federal action against his former boss in Montague. The firefighter is alleging unsafe work conditions, and a violation of his First Amendment rights.

The lawsuit, filed just days ago, alleges a problematic work environment within the Montague Fire Department, one that not only put firefighters at risk but the people it serves as well.

The main defendant named in this lawsuit is Dennis Roesler, who is still a firefighter in Montague and has been for nearly 16 years, but he’s no longer the chief. Roesler stepped down from his position earlier this year after pleading ‘no contest’ to assault and weapons charges in an incident back in April involving alcohol and his wife.

Now it’s his alleged actions years ago that has Glen Naghtin seeking compensation for what he calls wrongful termination.

Naghtin terminated under Roesler’s leadership. Naghtin filed a federal lawsuit against Roesler and the Montague Fire District Board seeking compensation for speaking out against an issue Naghtin claims put both firefighters and the public at risk.

It all started with the construction of a new fire station a few years ago. The lawsuit alleges one of the fire captains, Donald Roesler, Dennis’s brother, “spoke out about flaws in the construction including fire code violations.” The lawsuit alleges he was demoted a short time after raising those concerns about the new fire station.

Glen Naghtin says he stepped in and started a petition to reinstate the captain, who’d been elected to his position by firefighters in the district. The lawsuit claims the purpose of the petition was “to inform the citizens of the city that their fire chief was leaving them without properly trained personnel in certain aspects of fire protection.”  That petition then led to a special meeting by the Montague Fire District Board in December 2011, where then-Chief Roseler recommended Naghtin be fired, which the board affirmed.

The lawsuit alleges the actions of Roesler and the board violated Naghtin’s First Amendment rights. He’s seeking compensation for loss of income and benefits,  emotional distress, and pain and suffering.

A dollar amount isn’t listed in the lawsuit, which the plaintiff says will be proven at trial.

FOX 17 News did reached out to Naghtin for comment, but haven’t heard back as of Sunday evening. FOX 17 news made contact with Dennis Roesler at his home, but he would not comment pending on-going litigation. He tells us he’s in the process of getting a lawyer and just found out about the lawsuit in the last few days. The Montague Fire District Board also opting not to comment as of Sunday night.

 

 

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