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Firefighter's appeal reaches court

Legal process goes back to '09 firing

POSTED: October 26, 2012 12:33 a.m.
 

A Forsyth County firefighter who was fired three years ago may soon get his day in court.

John Gooch lost his job in August 2009 following allegations he lied and stole county equipment.

He took the issue to the county’s civil service board, which upheld his firing in November of that year.

Gooch appealed the panel’s decision to Forsyth County Superior Court in December 2009, and the county filed a motion to dismiss the case in March 2010.

Thursday, that motion was denied by Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley, who said he expects to hold the civil hearing soon on the case.

Forsyth County, represented by attorney Paul Frickey, argued that Gooch’s attorney, Robert Reid, did not follow proper procedure in serving the defendant with notice of the suit.

The writ of certiorari, which the court grants if it will hear a case, was delivered to the county’s contracted law office unsigned by a judge, Frickey said.

“This document does not constitute a valid writ of certiorari,” he said, holding the papers his office received in 2009.

Frickey added that he was not personally served and that the document names the Forsyth County Fire Department, which cannot be sued, and should have named the county.

Reid, however, said he did provide a copy of the signed writ, and he later requested to amend the named party.

“We have complied with the substance of the law,” he said.

Bagley sided with Reid, citing the conflicting evidence on the service of the suit.

“The county has failed to prove that it was not properly served,” he said.

In the 2009 civil service board decision, the panel upheld the allegation that Gooch had taken home toilet paper, a county fuel key, blood pressure kit and another firefighter’s fan without authorization.

The board also agreed that Gooch provided false statements to his supervisor and other employees, as well as to the panel itself during one of the hearings.

Reid has contended the fire department did not follow its policies in its investigation that ultimately led to Gooch’s dismissal, which he said the civil service board did not address.

 

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