The City of Rockingham and its insurance company paid $167,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by past and present employees of the fire department.
The issue was raised over overtime pay and violations of the Fair Standards Labor Act by Rockingham Fire Chief Charles Gardner. It was filed in March 2009. The settlement was confirmed by parties on both sides of the suit this week.
“We’ve honored the commitments we agreed to in the settlement agreement, and are ready to move forward,” said City Manager Monty Crump.
Rockingham paid around $30,000 out-of-pocket in the settlement, Crump said. The rest came from the city’s insurance company.
The total was split with $93,000 going to the firefighters and $74,000 going toward their attorney fees.
Of the $93,000, the majority of the money went to the two firefighters who lost their jobs in the months following the filing of the lawsuit.
Union Chapter President Robbie Barber received about $26,000 in the settlement and Union Chapter Treasurer Rodney Gandy received about $28,000. Both lost their jobs at the fire department.
One of the attorneys for the firefighters explained another $32,000 was split up among the remaining eight plaintiffs, while $7,000 went to specific firefighters in relation to retaliation claims.
Gandy confirmed the checks went out last month.
The 10 firefighters were represented by the law firm of Woodley and McGillivary in Washington, D.C.
“The case is settled,” Woodley and McGillivary Attorney Kurt Rumsfeld said. “I think the parties resolved it in good faith, and I think both sides had a mutual interest to settle and move on in the best interest of the citizens of Rockingham.”
Crump explained that under the terms of the agreement, the city admitted no wrongdoing or violations of the FSLA, and said the decision was predicated on financial reasons.
“The overriding factor in the city and its insurance providers’ decision to settle was the cost of litigation going forward,” he explained. “The legal fees in the case exceeded what the firemen settled for, so it was simply more cost-effective to pay the settlement than to continue in court.”
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Greensboro in March of last year, after 10 members of the Rockingham Fire Department formed a local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
The settlement was announced after the Rockingham City Council met behind closed doors at its November meeting to discuss it, then approved it unanimously when it came back into open session. The details weren’t released until this week.
Staff Writer Philip D. Brown can be reached at (910) 997-3111 ext. 32, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.