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Whistle-blowing firefighter's case settled

Former deputy chief reported safety issues, was passed up for promotion

The City of Chula Vista will pay a former deputy fire chief $350,000 over allegations that he was purposely passed up for promotions for blowing the whistle.

Firefighter John Hess sued the city in 2014 over allegations that then–fire-chief Dave Hanneman and former city manager Jim Sandoval purposely failed to promote him after he had revealed safety issues and complaints about the city's fire department. Hess’s attorneys initially estimated damages to be $2.1 million.

After three years of litigation, the two sides reached a tentative settlement in August that was not made final until December 4.

The settlement requires that the city pay Hess $350,000 and allow him to return to his job. Court documents indicate reaching the settlement was no easy task.

Negotiations had broken down in May of this year. Hess wanted $600,000 in addition to his job back. The city, however, had countered with a $550,000 lump payment but Hess would have to retire.

Fast-forward to August 15, just two weeks before the trial was set to begin. Hess submitted a new offer: $350,000 and his old job back. The city accepted.

But that wasn't the end of it. Court documents show that Hess reconsidered and tried to pull out of the agreement.

Reads an October 6 court motion, "The evidence is overwhelming that [Hess] agreed to the written terms of the settlement agreement, repeatedly, and simply later refused to sign."

Attorneys for Chula Vista filed a motion asking that the federal judge enforce the settlement, with or without Hess’s signature. On December 4, judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo granted the motion, thus dismissing the case.

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The City of Chula Vista will pay a former deputy fire chief $350,000 over allegations that he was purposely passed up for promotions for blowing the whistle.

Firefighter John Hess sued the city in 2014 over allegations that then–fire-chief Dave Hanneman and former city manager Jim Sandoval purposely failed to promote him after he had revealed safety issues and complaints about the city's fire department. Hess’s attorneys initially estimated damages to be $2.1 million.

After three years of litigation, the two sides reached a tentative settlement in August that was not made final until December 4.

The settlement requires that the city pay Hess $350,000 and allow him to return to his job. Court documents indicate reaching the settlement was no easy task.

Negotiations had broken down in May of this year. Hess wanted $600,000 in addition to his job back. The city, however, had countered with a $550,000 lump payment but Hess would have to retire.

Fast-forward to August 15, just two weeks before the trial was set to begin. Hess submitted a new offer: $350,000 and his old job back. The city accepted.

But that wasn't the end of it. Court documents show that Hess reconsidered and tried to pull out of the agreement.

Reads an October 6 court motion, "The evidence is overwhelming that [Hess] agreed to the written terms of the settlement agreement, repeatedly, and simply later refused to sign."

Attorneys for Chula Vista filed a motion asking that the federal judge enforce the settlement, with or without Hess’s signature. On December 4, judge Cathy Ann Bencivengo granted the motion, thus dismissing the case.

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Comments
4

Yep, after his lawyer takes 33-40% and Court cost too, ain’t much left over for Mr. Hess.

Dec. 11, 2017

My first reaction upon reading the headline was that the city of SD had done it again. That city is constantly making settlements to wronged employees and those victimized by rogue cops. And the SD fire department seems to have a major problem with its current fire chief and his ways of dealing with the staff.

But, lo and behold, this was the city of Chula Vista! Maybe now that CV is hands down the second largest city in the county, it is trying to be the worst run. It would be very hard to dislodge SD from that perch. Do these bureaucrats never learn? Ans: No, they seem to work very hard at making the same errors of judgment over and over.

Dec. 11, 2017

Here the common denominator in all of these cases. It’s never their money and they are never held personably liable. ALL of this would cease to be an issue if employees, managers and elected officials were held financially accountable personally for their unlawful acts. We’ve seen at every level of government and it must end.

Dec. 11, 2017

And once again, the taxpayer, who didn't do anything wrong, loses. Those who did do wrong skip off into the sunset, whistling and counting their pensions.

Dec. 12, 2017

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