CHESTERFIELD, MO (KTVI) – Friday’s announcement of the Monarch Fire Protection District’s new assistant chief has many firefighters up in arms.
On April 7th, Cary Spiegel will begin his new job at a familiar place. He used to be a Monarch deputy chief, until he was fired in November of 2011, along with three other officers, after the district lost a gender discrimination lawsuit.
It was a lawsuit filed in 2007 by four female firefighter-paramedics employed by Monarch. They claimed that several of the district’s officers created a hostile work environment for them. Two of the women were awarded $200,000 in damages, and in November 2011, four officers were fired, including Deputy Chief Cary Spiegel.
That same month, these two female employees spoke with FOX 2 about the atmosphere they could no longer tolerate. For example, Donna Kessler and Dana Buckley said they were passed over for promotions, and taunted for their female attributes. Kessler explained, “I could not do any PR assignments because I was not a proper firefighter image. They didn’t want people seeing me pregnant.”
Now, Monarch firefighters are shocked and baffled that the board hired Spiegel back, especially since Kessler and Buckley still work for the district.
Monarch Fire Captain Andy Stecko worries that Spiegel’s return would mean reverting back to that hostile work environment. He says the firefighters are considering legal action. He adds, “This is a thoughtless decision by Jane Cunningham and Robin Harris with very negative potential consequences that demands a full explanation and careful reconsideration.”
But Monarch Board President Robin Harris, who approved Spiegel’s hiring, says Spiegel’s education and experience made him the most qualified candidate.
Regarding the lawsuit, in both 2011 and today, Harris maintains that Spiegel was innocent, and wrongly fired. He explains, “Cary Spiegel was not a defendant in the case, the district was. There was no finding against Cary Spiegel of any wrongdoing.”
But, in 2011, the plaintiffs begged to differ. Kessler said, “I want people to know that these four people who were named are not scapegoats. They were the four individual people that the actual complaints were against. They were the ones that were threatening us.”
Spiegel will report to Monarch Fire Chief Tom Vineyard, who had no say in the hiring process. Vineyard told told FOX 2 he was unable to comment on the matter.