Settlement pact no victory for former MFPD employees

We believe the settlement of a federal lawsuit filed against the Mehlville Fire Protection District by two former employees falls far short of the “justice” sought by the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The fire district’s Board of Directors voted in closed session last week to accept the offer of its insurance carrier to settle the lawsuit filed in October 2008 by the IAFF on behalf of former employees Bob Strinni and Jeri Fleschert.

Strinni, a firefighter and then-president of Mehlville Local 1889 of the IAFF, and Fleschert, a paramedic and then-secretary of the Local 1889 Executive Board, were fired by the Board of Directors in June 2008 for what Mehlville officials termed a violation of the district’s anti-harassment policy.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the district’s insurance carrier will pay the two former employees $50,000 each.

In addition, Mehlville’s insurance carrier will pay a total of $125,000 to Woodley & McGillivary of Washington, D.C., Strinni and Fleschert’s legal counsel.

The lawsuit filed by the IAFF had sought the reinstatement of Strinni and Fleschert and monetary damages, including “back pay, compensation, benefits, unpaid entitlements, plus pre-judgment and post-judgment interest.”

When the suit was initiated, a great deal of bluster emanated from union officials.

For example, in a news release issued when the lawsuit was filed, IAFF General President Harold A. Schaitberger stated, “The IAFF cannot stand on the sidelines while two of our affiliate officers and excellent employees are discharged for pretextual and unlawful reasons.

“We are committed to supporting Bob Strinni and Jeri Fleschert until justice is achieved.”

We can only conclude the “justice” sought by the IAFF didn’t include reinstatement as that was not a provision of the settlement agreement. And while $50,000 each may seem like a lot of money, it’s roughly half of what Strinni and Fleschert could expect to earn annually, including overtime.

Furthermore, it’s not surprising that $125,000 is going to their attorneys.

Our guess is that’s barely a fraction of the legal fees incurred by the IAFF.

So before any pundits or disreputable bloggers try to spin this settlement as some kind of victory for the two former employees, that just ain’t the case.