An Orange County Fire Authority vehicle. Photo by John Schreiber.
An Orange County Fire Authority vehicle. Photo by John Schreiber.

The state Supreme Court on Monday issued a ruling in favor of the Orange County Fire Authority regarding a dispute about a supervisor’s negative comments in a log about a firefighter’s work performance.

Firefighter Steve Poole sued the OCFA, claiming that a log a captain kept for his own reference should be made available by state law to Poole so he could respond to any negative observations about his job performance. An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled on the agency’s behalf, but the ruling was reversed on appeal.

The state’s high court sided with the OCFA because the comments would not be placed in Poole’s employment file for future reference. Also, the high court noted that the captain did not have the authority to discipline Poole.

“Here, (the captain) was not plaintiff’s employer,” the ruling states. “Plaintiff does not content, and nothing in the record demonstrates, that (the captain) himself had the authority to take adverse disciplinary actions, such as demotions or discharge, against plaintiff on behalf of his employer, the Orange County Fire Authority.

“(The captain’s) comments thus could adversely affect plaintiff only if and when they were placed in a personnel file or in some other form to which the employer — that is, those who had the authority to discipline plaintiff — had access.”

The agency’s chairman, Gene Hernandez, and Fire Chief Jeff Bowman praised the ruling.

“We are gratified that the California Supreme Court agreed unanimously that the Fire Authority handled this personnel process correctly, and struck the proper balance between the protections rightly afford to our heroic firefighters, on the one hand, and to the operational and efficiency demands of the fire agency on the other,” they said in a joint statement.

— City News Service

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