Ind. Chief Says he was Demoted for Being a Whistleblower

Aug. 29--EVANSVILLE -- Former Evansville Fire Department District Chief Keith Jarboe claims he was demoted for giving information to the City Council concerning a mishandling of fire department overtime pay.

Jarboe, in a lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court, says he was transferred July 7 from district chief to a position as health and safety officer. Defendants are listed as the city, the Evansville Fire Merit Commission and Fire Chief Mike Connelly.

City attorney Ted Ziemer said he had not seen the lawsuit when contacted by a reporter, and could not comment yet.

The lawsuit states Jarboe's transfer "occurred because (Jarboe) provided information about the improper activities of the chief and his assistant chief of the fire department that reached other public officials and the public," according to the lawsuit.

Connelly became chief in January 2012. Connelly, Assistant Chief Paul Anslinger and Battalion Chief Dan Grimm had more unused vacation hours forwarded from 2012 to 2013 than were allowed. Those hours also were changed from vacation time to converted time, also not allowed.

City government officials said those were innocent errors that were corrected upon discovery. Connelly said that as a newly appointed chief, he was not familiar with rules governing unused vacation hours for administrative staff.

Jarboe, a firefighter for 32 years and a former member of the City Council, says in the lawsuit he discovered the overtime pay issues and gave them to Larry Zuber, president of the fire union, and Zuber "filed the report of these violations" with City Councilman John Friend, D-5th Ward.

The errors were publicly raised by City Councilman Al Lindsey, D-6th Ward. Lindsey is a fire department captain with a long-standing hostile relationship with Connelly.

Jarboe, who is represented by attorney Charles Berger, claims his rights to free speech were violated, as well as his right to protection from retaliation pursuant to the Indiana Whistleblower statute.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified relief for "damage to his reputation, emotional and mental distress, future emotional and mental distress, lost earnings and fringe benefits, front pay including fringe benefits, lost future earnings and fringe benefits, attorneys fees, punitive damages and all other relief just and proper."

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