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Federal judge dismisses Santa Maria firefighters' lawsuit against city officials
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Federal judge dismisses Santa Maria firefighters' lawsuit against city officials

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A federal judge on Feb. 27 dismissed a lawsuit against Santa Maria officials accused of retaliating against firefighters who allege the city investigated them following a dispute over the hiring of outside candidates for a leadership position within the Fire Department. 

U.S. District Court Judge Dolly Gee dismissed the lawsuit against Santa Maria Fire Chief Leonard Champion, former City Manager Rick Haydon, and Human Resources Director Jayne Anderson, finding that they didn't knowingly violate the firefighters' constitutional rights. 

The lawsuit was filed in March 2019 by five firefighters — Jill Hoover, Clint McIntosh, Anthony Morales, Anthony Tevis and Chad Wennerstrom — and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2020, which represents city firefighters at the rank of engineer, fire captain and firefighter on labor matters. 

The firefighters sought damages in excess of $25,000, attorneys' fees and a jury trial. 

The firefighters' complaint stems from February 2017, when Champion posted a job opening to a California firefighter union for the captain position, which he allowed outside candidates to apply for. 

The firefighters, who still work for the department, objected to this practice because such a promotion was traditionally kept in-house.

In solidarity with the firefighters, the union sent a "do not apply" email notice to its members in response to the posting, according to the complaint. 

The firefighters allege their civil rights were violated after receiving notices they'd be investigated and possibly face disciplinary action, including termination. 

Attorneys for the city officials filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed Jan. 13, which the judge granted. 

Gee declined to discuss the complaint against the city, which was ordered to respond to the complaint by March 19. 

Photos: New Santa Maria firefighters train to go on duty

Photos: Hancock College fire academy cadets get water-saving training tool

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