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Contempt Motion Filed Against Anthony Fire District Chief

Posted: December 22, 2005|Category: Free Speech

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ACLU volunteer attorney John Dineen has asked a federal judge to hold Anthony Fire District Chief Walter Mruk in contempt of court – and personally fine him – for failing to abide by a consent agreement he entered into more than a year ago in an ACLU free speech case. The underlying suit had challenged a “gag order” issued by Mruk, barring two firefighters from publicly expressing fire-department related concerns without first getting his approval.

That suit, filed by Dineen in 2002 on behalf of firefighters Robert Carlow and Lonnie St. Jean, had argued that Mruk’s order and various Fire District by-law provisions on which the order were based violated the firefighters’ rights to freedom of speech. As part of a settlement agreement entered with the court last year, Mruk agreed to rescind all of the challenged by-laws provisions.

However, the ACLU recently learned that during an arbitration proceeding earlier this year, Mruk introduced the unamended by-laws as an exhibit. And months after the settlement agreement was entered, Mruk acknowledged that he had not made the agreed-upon changes.

Moreover, during recent contract negotiations between firefighters and the fire district, Carlow was asked to agree, as part of the contract, to dismiss all claims he and any other member of the union had against the Fire District. This would include claims that Mruk and the Fire District had failed to abide by the settlement agreement entered in this case, as well as a separate pending ACLU lawsuit on behalf of Carlow that challenges the Fire District’s ban on videotaping of district annual meetings. The ACLU contempt motion, filed today by ACLU attorney Dineen, called that attempt a “corruption of the court process.”

Among other forms of relief, the contempt motion asks that Mruk be personally fined for contempt because “his continuing practice of passing along to the taxpayers of the Fire District all of the costs and legal fees associated with his frequent attacks on civil liberties has allowed him to continue defying the law, and the courts, at no cost to himself.” In the course of two years, the ACLU has filed three separate lawsuits against Mruk.

Click to download the memorandum submitted by the ACLU (.pdf documents).

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