One Year Later, Fire Chief's Employment Status in Limbo

Mar 8, 2012

LEXINGTON, Ky. - It’s been 12 months since embattled Lexington fire chief Robert Hendricks has reported for duty, but he still wants a job with the city.

Susan Straub, a spokeswoman for Mayor Jim Gray, says the chief filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Robert Hendricks has claimed that he’s covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. It’s a federal law. Under that law, the city would be required to determine whether there’s an appropriate position for him.”

The issue of Hendricks’ employment started last year when Mayor Gray publicly called for his resignation, saying the chief was not a good leader for the Division of Fire.  Hendricks then tried filing for a disability retirement, but the Lexington Police and Fire Pension Board denied the application based on medical evaluations from three doctors.  

“The reason he’s going forward is because he has some legal rights that we’re pursuing," says Hendricks' attorney Mark Wohlander.

Wohlander has described the chief’s disability as a psychological issue.

The mayor’s office had planned to bring charges against Hendricks before the Urban County Council to proceed with dismissal, but that hasn't happened.

“Personnel law is very complicated, and he has filed this claim and we have to deal with it,” says Straub.

Hendricks and the city were close to reaching a settlement of the employment complaint.  But on Wednesday, Chris Bartley,  president of the local firefighters union,  told the mayor and council members that Hendricks could not be hired back to any position lower than his current rank of chief.

“I think it was inappropriate for Chris Bartley to even bring that matter to the attention of the public. I think it was not only inappropriate, but I don’t think he had any authority to reveal information that was ongoing as it relates to an EEO complaint,” Wohlander says.

Hendricks is still technically employed by city government although he has not received a paycheck since September.