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Former Berlin Fire Company employee lawsuit dismissed

10/18/12 | By Nathan Brunet, Staff writer

BERLIN – The EMS employee who sued the Berlin Mayor and Council in July for $200,000 after being fired by the governing body had his case dismissed on Monday by Worcester County Circuit Court Judge David Mitchell.

Norris "Phil" Donohoe Jr. was acting as the EMS supervisor for the Berlin Fire Company when multiple complaints of workplace harassment at the establishment were received by the town.

On May 1, the town relieved Donohoe of his duties at the fire company.

The town’s attorney in the case, Kevin Karpinski, said the firing is a personnel matter and it is not within the confines of the law to reveal exactly why Donohoe was terminated.

Donohoe responded to his dismissal with a lawsuit filed on July 12 that asserted Berlin wrongfully terminated his position as retaliation for disputing its claim that the harassment had not ceased.

However, Judge Mitchell decided that there was not enough information to prove Donohoe's accusation, and dismissed the case, giving the plaintiff 21 days to amend his complaint.

"We are pleased the judge has dismissed the action and found the claims against the town did not have merit," Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said in a press release sent on Monday after the ruling.

Still, the 21-day amendment window means that this case is not entirely over.

"I believe this case can, and will go forward," said Robin Cockey, the attorney representing Donohoe.

Cockey said he expects Donohoe to give a more informative claim by the judge's deadline.

Karpinski. on the other hand, does not believe Donohoe's amendment would include enough information to allow the case to continue.

"I would assume the original file contained the most viable information," Karpinski said.

Meanwhile, the town and fire company still remain in disagreement over the harassment complaints that resulted in Berlin cutting its funding of the fire company and ending its authority over paid EMS employees.

The Berlin Fire Company remains adamant that the town's claims of continued workplace harassment are not valid. 

“We look forward to a time when we can resolve this dispute, but only after the Berlin Fire Company has chosen leaders whom have credibility and are willing to be accountable to the community they serve," Williams said in Monday's press release." 

Without those two conditions being met, we will simply allow the judicial process to follow its due course over time.” 

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