July 9, 2004 , – LAWFUEL -Robert Pratt and Rachelle Scudder filed individual complaints for damages yesterday in Bakersfield Superior Court against the City of Bakersfield for wrongful suspension, retaliation, harassment, conspiracy and defamation. Bakersfield Fire Department members were also named as defendants, including Chief Ron Fraze, Deputy Chief Gary Hutton, Captain Brian Perry, Human Resources Supervisor Anthony Gonzales, Investigator Edward Watts, and Captain John Webber. Although the Plaintiffs provided overwhelming evidence that accusations that they had oral copulation at work were false, they were still reprimanded and demoted, denied promotion, and their wages decreased.
Mr. Pratt and Ms. Scudder are represented by Browne Greene and Mark T. Quigley with the Santa Monica, CA. law firm of Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP. Judge Robert Anspach will preside over these matters, Pratt vs. City of Bakersfield Case No. S-1500-CV253264-RJA and Scudder vs. City of Bakersfield, Case No. S-1500-CV253265-RJA.
Robert “Robby” Pratt, age 38, is a fireman with the Bakersfield Fire Department (BFD) and an employee of the City of Bakersfield. He has been with the BFD since 1992, joining the department as a reservist in 1992 and full-time in 1999. Mr. Pratt has received numerous commendations for bravery and heroism throughout his career. Rachelle “Shelly” Scudder, age 25, is employed as a secretary by the City of Bakersfield, joining in 2001 and then transferring to the BFD in 2002. Mr. Pratt and Ms. Scudder met in April 2002 and became engaged to marry in February 2003. Because of the Defendants’ conduct, they broke the engagement in September 2003, just one month before their October 4, 2003 nuptial date.
Mr. Pratt alleges in his complaint that beginning in November 2002 (and continuing for almost a year), BFD Captain John Webber made false statements about Pratt’s sexual orientation, claiming that he was homosexual, and discouraging other employees from interacting with him. Mr. Pratt complained to his supervisors, BFD Deputy Chief Gary Hutton and Chief Ron Fraze, and to BFD Human Resources Supervisor Anthony Gonzales. However, they took no action in response to his complaints.
On May 27, 2003, Deputy Chief Gary Hutton filed a formal complaint against both Plaintiffs concerning the alleged oral copulation incident, and a formal investigation was launched by the City of Bakersfield. Both Pratt and Scudder complained to their superiors at the BFD that the investigation was based on false information and was retaliatory. They both received a notice of suspension and a letter of intent to terminate them from their employment on June 30, 2003.
“The City of Bakersfield and the Bakersfield Fire Department reprimanded and demoted Robert Pratt and Rachelle Scudder even though they conclusively demonstrated that they had done nothing wrong,” said Mark Quigley. “Their lives have been personally and professionally decimated by the Defendants. We’ve filed this lawsuit to set the record straight, and will do everything that we can to see that justice is served.”
Greene, Broillet, Panish & Wheeler, LLP
Kathy Pinckert, 310-566-6048