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Tuesday Meeting Could Answer Monarch Questions About Lawsuit and Firings

KSDK TV reports the fire protection district will address Saturday's board decision following recent appeals court ruling against the agency.

What really happened this weekend when four Monarch Fire Protection District officers were allegedly voted on to be dismissed from the district, as reported Monday by one of the district's three board members as well as the watchdog organization Monarch Concerned Taxpayers?

"At this time I am not at liberty to answer that question. District policy does not allow any employee of Monarch or elected official to comment on personnel matters," Monarch Fire Protection District Board President Kim Evans told Patch in an email Monday afternoon. "I can tell you that this board is committed to a non-discriminatory workplace."

Evans then issued a news release Monday afternoon. It stated the following: 

In 2007 several female employees of the Monarch Fire Protection District filed a claim against the Fire District, alleging employment discrimination in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act. Various claims were tried to a Jury in St. Louis County and verdict was rendered against the District in July 2010 on two of the claims. The Jury awarded $200,000 each and attorney fees on the two claims that were sustained.

Those decisions were reviewed by the Missouri Court of Appeals on the Appeals of the employees and the Fire District. On November 15, 2011, the Court of Appeals sustained the verdicts.

The Monarch Fire Protection District maintains strict guidelines against actual or perceived discrimination. The District has a “no-tolerance” policy against gender discrimination as well as other forms of discrimination.

Due to the decision that has been rendered by the Court of Appeals, the District restates that there shall be no discrimination against any person on the basis of age, gender, color, national origin, religion  or employment group affiliation.

The Monarch Fire Protection District will not tolerate action of gender discrimination either as isolated events or as a pattern of discrimination.

A representative of Professional Fire Fighters of Eastern Missouri Local 2665 stated the weekend issue was not associated with, and did not involve, any union matters.

Monarch board member, Robin Harris, said he attended Saturday's meeting by phone and, according to Missouri state laws and district procedures, could not vote.

Harris said that after the vote of the other two board members, two senior fire officers were escorted from the headquarters by two police officers. The officers were there because of the board meeting. He said he found out about the evictions after the fact.

"I do not think any action like that would have been necessary, and so since I don’t know where the directive came from, I have actually inquired of my fellow board members, and have not yet had a reply," Harris told Patch on Monday. "I find that action to be unconscionable."

According to Harris and the Monarch Concerned Citizens group, four officers were released from the district's employment Saturday:  Monarch Assistant Chief Les Crews, Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel and battalion chiefs Fred Goodson and Mike Davis.

Are the dismissals connected to gender discrimination lawsuit?

No public records have been released yet about Saturday's alleged vote, however an open board meeting is scheduled tonight (Tuesday) at 7:30 p.m. KSDK-TV is reporting that the result of Saturday's meeting will be discussed Tuesday night.

Monarch board member Steve Swyers reiterated to Patch Tuesday morning that board members were not at liberty to discuss personnel matters. He instead emphasized that the Monarch district-related work environment described in Nov. 15 legal documents (that accompany this article) "does not define the type of work environment we want for the Monarch district."

Swyers said he is very concerned about the amount of money associated with the lawsuit "Donna Kessler and Dana Buckley and Donna Weiss vs. Monarch Fire Protection District, Nos. ED95990 and ED95991", which he said is "approaching a million dollars," not including the district's own legal fees.

Sywers said he believed the following summary paragraph from the Court of Appeals document was extremely important and noteworthy:

"In the present case, evidence was presented to show Kessler and Buckley were treated differently than their male counterparts with respect to scheduling and being given certain assignments, among other treatment. Their employment was affected thereby, and there was evidence that the harassment was pervasive enough to create an abusive working environment. There was also sufficient evidence from which a reasonable person would objectively view the work environment as hostile, and Plaintiffs sustained economic damages as a direct result."

That same court document referenced testimony about "various statements made by the Captains of the firehouses, particularly by Captain Edwin, which served as evidence of gender discrimination."

Edwin was not one of the four men identified by Harris and Monarch Concerned Taxpayers as having been relieved of duty on Saturday.

Missouri Sunshine Laws dictate that the results of the vote from Saturday's closed session must be made publicly available within a specified amount of time.

Stay with Patch for continuing coverage of the story, including new developments coming out Tuesday's board meeting.

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