Fired EMT sues town of Peterborough
PETERBOROUGH — A Peterborough woman who was fired from her job as a part-time firefighter and emergency medical technician in March has filed suit against the town of Peterborough and three members of the Fire Department.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in N.H. Superior Court by her attorney, Richard Pennington of Peterborough, Jennifer Duval charged that she was wrongfully terminated. She also said her reputation was damaged as a result of emails or memos written by firefighters Diana Godin, Keith Rodenhiser, Brian Wall and Paul Thibault. She is seeking unspecified damages for loss of income, loss of reputation and emotional distress, according to the complaint.
Duval, 31, was fired after town officials determined her inability to get a blood pressure reading from a patient in an ambulance during a rescue call to Francestown in February, along with earlier disciplinary actions and suspensions, was grounds for termination. The Select Board upheld that decision in May after Duval requested a grievance hearing.
In the complaint, Pennington wrote that Duval had been on more than 780 calls for the Peterborough Fire Department and had never failed to obtain a blood pressure reading. He wrote that Godin was the lead person on the call in question, which occurred early on the morning of Feb. 19 and involved an injured man being taken in the Peterborough ambulance from Francestown to the Crotched Mountain ski area, where a rescue helicopter was waiting. Neither Godin nor Duval chose to stop the ambulance in order to get better conditions for a blood pressure reading. “To do so would have been a poor choice given the short distance left to Crotched Mountain ski area,” Pennington wrote.
The complaint states that Godin later wrote an email to Peterborough EMS Director Jeremy Bouchard “containing numerous inaccuracies,” which Pennington wrote were “clearly designed to create a negative impression as to [Duval’s] mental health.”
The complaint also states that a later memo written by Rodenhiser, Wall and Thibault to Chief Joseph Lenox cast aspersions on Duval’s mental health by implying she was “under the influence of something or otherwise of ill mental health” during a March 6 meeting in which her performance was discussed. Pennington described that meeting as “a figurative firing squad.”
The suit contends that the town acted in bad faith in firing Duval and that the memos and emails were defamatory and libelous.
On Wednesday, Peterborough Town Administrator Pam Brenner said the town had not yet been officially served with the lawsuit and referred questions to town attorneys John Ratigan and Doug Mansfield, who both practice in Exeter. A call to Ratigan was not returned by press deadline.
Duval said Wednesday that she wants restore her reputation.
“My major goal is that I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through,” she said. “I’d like to prevent this from happening to anybody else.”
Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.