Michael Mingee, Chief of the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District (May 2013)

Paul Wellman (file)

Michael Mingee, Chief of the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District (May 2013)

Three Firefighters Sue Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District

Claim They Were Retaliated Against for Voicing Safety Concerns

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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Three firefighters filed a lawsuit last week alleging that concerns they voiced about reported safety violations within the the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District were met with retaliation from the department and its chief.

Plaintiffs Christopher Blair, Han Domini, and Michael Hayek allege that Chief Michael Mingee and the department responded to their complaints by terminating Blair, manipulating test scores to prevent a promotion for Domini, and inflicting emotional distress upon both Blair and Hayek.

The lawsuit also claims that Mingee’s alleged disregard for the safety violations led an insurance underwriter — Insurance Services Office (ISO) — to downgrade the district, resulting in higher costs for taxpayers.

Though the fire department was downgraded, Mingee said in an interview this week, it had nothing to do with the health and safety of firefighters. The district’s board of directors has also denied the claim and will defend the lawsuit, he explained.

ISO rates fire departments for one thing only: their ability to deliver a sufficient amount of water to a fire,” Mingee said. “Over one-half of the grading has nothing to do with the fire department — it grades the water distribution system. The agency that regulates that is OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], and the fire district has no complaints or citations registered with them.”

Blair was responsible for overseeing the department’s Health and Safety Committee, which Hayek and Domini joined. According to the case file, the committee was responsible for conducting physical fitness assessments.

The lawsuit alleges that Mingee refused to conduct these tests, and as a result, one firefighter who failed to pass was injured at work a few weeks later. According to the complaint, Mingee halted the fitness tests because he was unable to pass them himself.

I don’t need to pass the fitness test,” said Mingee. “I could, but as fire chief it is not required of me.” Mingee also stated that firefighters were only required to pass an annual physical exam administered by a doctor, and that the fitness tests mentioned in the lawsuit were not used to determine preparedness for duty.

Blair arrived at the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District in 2012 after 26 years with the City of Santa Barbara Fire Department. He was hired as a Battalion Chief and appointed District Safety Officer. Toward the end of his probational period as an employee, Blair was fired. According to the lawsuit, this was in retaliation to Blair’s safety concerns and his support for fellow firefighter Domini.

The case file states that Domini was cheated out of a promotion by Mingee, who allegedly took home his promotional assessment and manipulated the score so he would not be considered. Blair allegedly confronted Mingee about Domini’s assessment score and was terminated on the spot, without explanation.

The case file was laden with personal allegations against Mingee, charging him of bullying his inferiors. Mingee allegedly passed around an image of a snake wearing a fire helmet and claimed it was Hayek. According to the lawsuit, after Blair’s brother died of cancer, Mingee began to refer to the plaintiffs as “the cancer,” and stated that they should be pushed out of the department. Mingee has served on the American Cancer Society’s executive board for six years.

The one that bothers me the most is the allegation that I would use cancer as a bullying tactic,” said Mingee. “I’ve raised money for the efforts to fight that enemy. I’ve been a fundraiser for the ACS [American Cancer Society] since 2004, and I was instrumental in bringing the ACS Relay for Life to Carp in 2008. I’ve personally been affected by cancer in my family, and anyone who knows me knows that I would never use cancer as a bullying tactic.”

I don’t want people to think that the fire department is not doing its job,” Mingee went on. “The district has nothing to hide. It’s all public record.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Fire administrators are all the same in this county. They look out for themselves and will take you out if you get in their way. You know what? I believe the Sheriff fits in this category as well. What is it with these egotistical maniacs holding admin jobs in public safety?? Mingee is no saint and is now trying to save his job by saying he wouldn't use cancer to bully. Then explain to me why these three would use the word "cancer" in their lawsuit? You just can't make this stuff up.. Sue the hell out of Mingee and clean house…..

Priceless (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2013 at 7:34 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Wow Mingee sounds like a real great guy (not). I guess paying people 180-250k a year doesnt mean you attract the best...

Any boss who creates a workplace environment like this is a bad boss. Early retirement for Mingee is in order, unfortunately that means a life long pension at 150k a year... what a bunch of suckers we are for paying these meat heads more than physicians... they laugh at their ridiculous pay and at all of us for painting them as saints... Saints they aint.

iamsomeguyinsb (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2013 at 12:56 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mike Mingee, Bill Brown... What is it with men in power in this county?? Can we send them to some sort of remedial course that instructs that retaliation is not an option?

ooshea (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2013 at 1:50 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I too have grown very distrustful of supervisory/administrative types who assert that nothing whatsoever is wrong with their departments and/or nothing whatsoever is wrong with their administration of their departments, and that they are being victimized by disgruntled subordinates.

Sometimes disgruntled subordinates have good reason to be disgruntled. Where there is smoke, there often is fire.

LegendaryYeti (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We all know everything is good at the SBPD. Cam Sanchez said so!

Botany (anonymous profile)
December 11, 2013 at 2:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Don't believe everything you read. I was on the Board of the Fire District when this happened. This is a frivolous lawsuit that will cost each side a lot of money. The lawyers will get richer is all that will happen. Waste of time and money.

carpperson (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 7:41 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yeah right, carpperson!

If you look hard enough you'll find that this guy was sued for similar reasons while he was chief in Washington State.

Everyone knows that lawsuits don't randomly follow people around from place to place.

When something happens once it's an isolated event. When it happens twice it becomes a trend.

TheAnswerIs1776 (anonymous profile)
December 12, 2013 at 9:32 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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