Ex-Lexington fire chief files complaint, says he is entitled to city job

bfortune@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2012 

Former Lexington fire chief Robert Hendricks has filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming he is covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act and entitled to a job with the city.

Under that law, the city would be required to determine whether there is an appropriate job for him.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub issued a statement Wednesday saying the city was trying to negotiate a settlement with Hendricks' attorney Mark Wohlander. "The Americans With Disabilities Act is something we take seriously. The law is intended to protect people with disabilities," Straub said.

Reached as he left federal court, Wohlander said, "As of this afternoon, we were very close to having this case resolved until somebody with the fire union attempted to interfere with our settlement and stuck their nose in the middle of it."

Earlier in the day, Chris Bartley, president of the Lexington Professional Firefighters union, sent an email to Urban County Council members, the city's law department and senior members of Mayor Jim Gray's staff saying he had heard the city was going to hire Hendricks as a firefighter.

Taking Hendricks back at any rank lower than chief would be a violation of the city's collective bargaining contract with firefighters, and the union would look at legal action against the city, Bartley said.

Wohlander said Bartley "has no standing in the case. He has no right to interject himself."

Hendricks' status has been in limbo since Gray raised questions about his leadership skills and asked him to resign about a year ago. The chief did not resign, and efforts to dismiss him were stalled after he applied for a disability pension.

While the specifics of Hendricks' disability were never publicly disclosed, Wohlander has said his client applied for the pension because of a psychological ailment.

The Lexington police and fire pension board ruled in October that Hendricks was not eligible for disability. Hendricks filed an appeal but withdrew it in December.

Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251Twitter: @BFortune2010

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