In a case that is becoming all too familar in the West, a Wyoming Firefighter is going to court over his right to free speech.
A lawsuit filed by a former Bar Nunn Wyoming volunteer firefighter against the town of Bar Nunn will go to trial, a federal court ruled.
Donald Cooper sued the town of Barr Nunn and its Fire Chief Charles Anderson for $250,000 for allegedly firing him after he criticized a "prescribed burn" practice exercise conducted by the fire department in April 2000, according to the Nov. 4 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Casper.
Cooper claimed that the chief and town violated his rights of free speech and due process guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, according to the complaint filed by his attorney Keith Nachbar.
Lawyers for the town claim Cooper was not terminated in retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights of free speech because his criticisms of the prescribed burn were made from his personal concerns as a volunteer firefighter, and not from concern for the public.
Cooper's Lawyers counter that criticism of the prescribed burn was in the public interest of his fellow firefighters, owners of property near where the burn occurred and the citizens of Natrona County.
Fire Chief Charles Anderson's letter of termination to Cooper in mid-2001 shows that he fired Cooper as a result of raising concerns about the prescribed burn.
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