The Richmond Register

Local News

February 17, 2013

Ex-firefighter sues city alleging battery, wrongful discharge

Man alleges supervisor intentionally injured him in training exercise

RICHMOND — A recently fired Richmond firefighter is suing the city, claiming he suffered physical and verbal abuse at the hands of a battalion chief that his superiors did nothing to stop.

Kenneth Prather filed the civil lawsuit Jan. 31 in Madison Circuit Court, nine days after the city commission voted 3-2 to terminate his employment with the fire department. Jim Newby and Laura Morgan were the dissenting votes.

The suit states Prather was employed by the department for 14 years.

Prior to the vote to terminate Prather’s employment, City Manager Jimmy Howard recommended that Prather be laid off because he would be unable to return to work after an extended medical leave.

In his lawsuit, Prather claims he was the target of  “a pattern of abusive, harassing, inappropriate and threatening conduct” at the hands of Battalion Chief Sidney Lynch.

The suit states Fire Department Chief Buzzy Campbell and the city “were, or should have been, aware” of the abuse. Lynch and Campbell also are named as defendants in their individual capacities.

On Feb. 12, 2012, Prather and other firefighters were involved in training exercise in which a semi-opaque material was placed over their masks to simulate the low visibility they would encounter in a smoke-filled structure, according to the lawsuit.

The firefighters had to successfully travel through a maze as part of the exercise.

During his second time through the maze, Prather states he “felt something strike his back from above, causing him significant pain.”

After that exercise, the suit states that Lynch started verbally haranguing Prather about why it was taking him so long to go through the maze. Earlier that month, Prather had accused Lynch of making a derogatory remark about Prather’s wife, which was reported to a supervisor as well as to the fire chief.

The two men argued during the training exercise. Lynch became “increasingly angry” and was asked to leave the training facility by his supervisor, according to the lawsuit.

Prather later was told by other firefighters that they had witnessed Lynch putting his foot into Prather’s back at least twice during the maze exercise.

Prather states he submitted a written statement about the incident to Campbell and Assistant Fire Chief Wayne Long along with statements from firefighters who had witnessed the Feb. 21 incident.

The lawsuit states the city conducted an investigation of the incident, which reportedly confirmed that Lynch had injured Prather, and that the battalion chief’s conduct toward Prather “and others has established a pattern of harassment.”

Prather took a leave of absence after experiencing severe back pain following the training exercise, and after filing a worker’s compensation claim with the city, he had back surgery, the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 5, Prather was notified by the city manager he would recommend that Prather’s employment be terminated based on a belief that “there does not appear to be any likelihood that (Prather) will be able to resume (his) duties at anytime in the foreseeable future.”

Prather claims he asked the city on Jan. 14 to hold off on his termination until he received the results of his Functional Capacity Evaluation, which had been conducted the previous week.

However, Howard went ahead with his recommendation, and the commission voted to fire Prather.

Prather is suing the city, Lynch and Campbell for alleged battery, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, retention, promotion or supervision and wrongful discharge in violation of public policy.

Although no dollar amount is listed in the initial complaint, Prather is asking the court to find in his favor for costs and punitive damages related to past and future lost wages, employment benefits, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional and psychological distress.

The case has been assigned to Judge William G. Clouse, and no court dates have been set yet. Defendants typically have 30 days to respond to a complaint.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 4-17 4Hfieldday1.jpg 4-H Environmental Field Day

    Madison County fourth-graders participated in several hands-on activities Tuesday and Wednesday during the annual 4-H Environmental Field Day at the county fairgrounds.

    April 16, 2014 8 Photos

  • Hearing delayed on West Main zone change

    Signs giving notice of a public hearing on a proposed zone change at the corner of West Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue were not posted in time for the Richmond Planning Commission to scheduled a public hearing for its April 24 business session.

    April 16, 2014

  • Berea mulls break with Kentucky Utilities

    The city of Berea is considering whether to extend its contract with Kentucky Utilities or to shop around for another electricity provider.

    April 16, 2014

  • 4-17 Melissa Lear.jpg BPD charge two in Richmond heroin-trafficking case

    Berea police arrested two women April 10 in a Richmond home in connection with heroin possession and trafficking.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 4-17 MuseVisit4.jpg Theater students hear actor, Berea alum Muse Watson

    “I killed about eight or nine kids, about your age,” actor Muse Watson joked as a room full of high schoolers erupted in laughter Wednesday at Madison Southern High School.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • Legislature passes road-spending plan

    Kentucky House and Senate lawmakers agreed Tuesday to a $4.1 billion road-spending plan on the legislature’s final day, avoiding an expensive special session.
    The plan includes $5.2 billion worth of projects throughout the state. But as much as 25 percent of that money will not be spent. Lawmakers said they would like to include a cushion in case some projects are delayed because of environmental concerns or problems acquiring land.

    April 16, 2014

  • 4-16 CMMShealthfair5.jpg Health fairs cover contemporary teenage topics

    Berea Community High School health students coordinated their first all-day health fair in November that was catered to elementary students.

    But their spring fair Monday handled more mature issues that targeted the middle and high school crowd, said health teacher Cathy Jones.

    April 16, 2014 13 Photos

  • 4-16 Lisa Begley.jpg Police: Woman drove through storage business gate

    Richmond police arrested a Lexington woman Monday night after the property manager at Main Street Storage said she repeatedly drove her vehicle into a gate and fence at the 455 E. Main St. business.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local jobless rate for 2013 same as 2012

    Madison was one of 12 Kentucky counties with a 2013 jobless rate unchanged from the previous year, according to statistics released Tuesday.

    Still, only four counties – Woodford, 6.1; Fayette and Oldham, 6.5; and Scott, 6.7 – had jobless rates better than Madison’s 6.8 percent.

    April 16, 2014

  • Danville officials table fairness ordinance

    City officials in Danville have tabled an anti-discrimination proposal.
    The Advocate-Messenger reports that the move on Monday came after questions were raised about its legality and suggestions were made for changes.

    April 15, 2014

AP Video
Disbanding Muslim Surveillance Draws Praise Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Passengers Abuzz After Plane Hits Swarm of Bees Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Diaz Gets Physical for New Comedy Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line Boston Marks the 1st Anniversary of Bombing NYPD Ends Muslim Surveillance Program 8-year-old Boy Gets His Wish: Fly Like Iron Man Sex Offenders Arrested in Slayings of CA Women India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should the Richmond City Commission stop rezoning property to allow construction of apartments?

Yes.
No
     View Results