A former Rockport fire chief is suing the town for wrongful termination, claiming his dismissal hearing 10 months before retirement was “ridiculing, disparaging and defamatory.”

ROCKPORT, MA— Former Fire Chief James Doyle has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the town of Rockport in federal court.

In the complaint, Doyle’s attorney characterizes the termination hearing at which the chief was fired as “ridiculing, disparaging and defamatory,” and which transpired just 10 months before he retired from the department.

Doyle was fired by the Board of Selectmen in February for allegedly violating a “last chance” agreement he made with the town. The agreement was made after a March 2019 incident where Doyle engaged in a verbal altercation with one of his subordinates while both were off the clock. It stated that if the selectmen terminated Doyle for another fireable offense, he would be unable to challenge the ruling.

In November 2020, Doyle received a termination letter from Town Administrator Mitch Vieira citing “neglect of duty.” The biggest accusation — Doyle allegedly failed to log financial transactions for paid fire inspections. All unlogged money was accounted for, however, according to an audit conducted that October.

The 59-page complaint, which was filed by Doyle’s attorney Liam O’Connell (his son-in-law) on June 17, addresses this issue and a number of other complaints they make against town officials.

“Asst. Police Chief (Mark) Schmink illegally changed Chief Doyle’s processes and procedures, which involved more and more computer-generated work that Chief Doyle had not previously done,” reads the complaint. “The town never provided Chief Doyle with any training on the use of computers or computer programming.”

Despite this claim, the complaint alleges Doyle had indeed produced the documents required for the financial audit — “three manila folders with inspection records and Excel spreadsheets.” This assertion was made by Doyle at his termination hearing. Selectman Paul Murphy asked why Doyle didn’t bring the documents to the hearing to prove his innocence. O’Connell said the documents were “in (Doyle’s) office…as they have been for 22 years” but Doyle could not retrieve them as he was “really beaten down by Mr. Schmink” at the time, who was also serving as the emergency service director.

The suit names the selectmen, Vieira, police Chief John Horvath and Schmink as defendants. It alleges the selectmen fostered a political environment where Vieira, Horvath and Schmink, “were illegally allowed to consolidate power whilst receiving large salaries and stipends, for positions the Board of Selectmen never had the authority to create and that were made in violation of Massachusetts law.”