Utah firefighters file nepotism lawsuit against fire dept.
Five firefighters claim they were passed over by former fire officials, who instead hired less-qualified family members
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Five firefighters filed a federal lawsuit that accuses former fire officials of nepotism.
According to the lawsuit against Unified Fire Authority, former Chief Mike Jensen and Deputy Chief Gaylord Scott, the firefighters claim they were passed over for jobs in 2011, and less-qualified family members of officials were hired instead, KSL reported.
Four of the five firefighters — Brandon Dodge, Todd Johnson, Kiyoshi Young and Michael Degering —were part-time employees of the department in 2011 and had their EMT certifications. The fifth firefighter, Justin Prokopis, was also an EMT and had been certified as a firefighter at the Utah Fire Rescue Academy.
According to the lawsuit, the five firefighters were all hired as full time in 2013, but they were classified in a way that gave them a less favorable retirement plan than that of the firefighters hired in 2011.
The lawsuit also claimed the department held an EMT course so that Jensens’ son-in-law would be certified before the hiring deadline, and that officials’ family members’ test scores were raised so that they could obtain a higher ranking on the hiring list.
"As determined in the A.G.’s report, defendants’ policy of classifying and treating family members and relatives of management personnel more favorable than non-family members resulted in the hiring of family members, although in some cases they were substandard and had a low level of aptitude than plaintiffs," the lawsuit said.
The firefighters said they obtained a copy of the hiring list during a January 2017 state audit and found that nine of the 12 applicants offered jobs in 2011 were related to officers in the department.
Jensen, who is also a Salt Lake City Councilman, and Scott both resigned in 2016 after complaints were filed about an alleged misuse of funds.