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Was settling the best idea?

By   /   October 24, 2012  /   Comments

 By now, the Albany City Commission has decided to settle with a certain notorious firefighter on a number of lawsuits this person has against the city. The thought process was probably that it was cheaper to settle than to actually fight. In this case though, I’m not so sure that the cheaper alternative was the right one.

This particular firefighter – let’s call him Jod Rolivette because I don’t feel like getting a phone call from the man and he is well known for making a call on any article he’s even named in – stood accused of some pretty serious allegations for a city official. He was accused of using city resources for personal reasons when he had two on duty firefighters allegedly helping repair damage at his parents’ house. Jod Rolivette denied the allegations, saying that a junior firefighter sent the firefighters and truck to the house.

Shortly after being reinstated to the Albany Fire Department, he was arrested. The charge was impersonating a police officer. It definitely looked like Jod Rolivette just didn’t seem to get what kind of a spotlight he was under.

The city acted, and there were lawsuits that followed. Unfortunately for Mr. Rolivette, based on the evidence I’ve personally seen, I see little to doubt that he was indeed guilty of the charges against him. In fact, the only reason he seemed to have been able to keep his job was because Al Lott couldn’t let anyone’s disciplinary action stand and had to change it to flex his muscle.

I have little doubt that, should these cases have gone to trial, the city would have won all cases including the EEOC complaint. By settling, the city essentially admits guilt despite the fact that it appears they should have done a lot more to Mr. Rolivette.

Worse than that, settling these cases may continue the belief that if you file a lawsuit against the city, you’ll cash in regardless of the facts. By settling, you may reduce the city’s costs in the short term, but you may also attract more lawsuits. That means more expenses in the long term.

No, the city shouldn’t settle a blasted thing. They should take this lawsuit to court and fight it all the way. If they end up losing, so what? Once people know that the City of Albany won’t just roll over and pay out, people are going to be a lot more selective on what they sue the city over.

At that point, it’s the people of Albany that win.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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