Fire district settles out of court with terminated employee Peter Craig

An out-of-court settlement between Clallam County Fire District No. 3 and former employee Peter Craig earlier this month ended a legal battle that began more than 21/2 years ago.

According to the settlement, Craig was to receive $173,000 on April 7, and the district will sponsor him to take his paramedic exam. Then as of April 8, Craig no longer will be associated with Clallam County Fire District No. 3.

The district's board of commissioners was scheduled to approve payroll, retirement and expense claims for Craig at a special meeting on April 6 and the settlement at the district's regular meeting on April 7.

As part of the settlement, Craig will receive all his past wages and benefits. The past two years also will count toward his Law Enforcement Officers' and Fire Fighters' Retirement System accrual.

"Part of the agreement is that I'm not to say a whole lot of anything," said Fire Chief Steve Vogel on Friday.

"It's in the best interests of everyone; he agreed to leave for that amount of money. So he leaves on April 7. It's frustrating. It never should have gone this far," he said.

Craig, of Sequim, has a 15-year career in firefighting as a shift captain.

Craig was placed on paid leave from June 2006 through August 2006 while the district investigated a May 31, 2006, incident.

Clallam County Superior Court documents state Craig took control of an aerial bucket on a fire engine after a training exercise, elevated another firefighter to the maximum height of the mechanical arm and bounced the bucket in an up-and-down motion. The firefighter in the bucket reportedly spilled some water onto Craig and other personnel, according to the documents.

Vogel terminated Craig's employment in August 2006 for what was described as "horseplay on the job" according to Clallam County Superior Court documents.

Craig appealed the decision through the International Association of Firefighters labor union.

At a hearing, arbitrator Michael Beck ruled Vogel and the District 3 commissioners were right to reprimand Craig but incorrect in punishing him with termination.

Beck ordered Craig's reinstatement with back pay in June 2007, excluding the 10 days that he said Beck should have been suspended without pay for the reported misconduct.

District 3 appealed that decision in Clallam County Superior Court. The case was scheduled to go to trial Dec. 8, 2008, but due to an overcrowded criminal calendar, the judge was unable to hear the case.

Reach Brian Gawley at bgawley@

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