Former Marshfield fire chief won $1.5 million in retaliation lawsuit

Local News

Kevin Robinson, chief of the fire department from 2003, was allegedly forced to retire from the department in 2015 when he spoke up for a female family member in the department facing discrimination.

Medford Fire Department’s Engine 1. Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe

The former Marshfield fire chief won more than $1.5 million after a years-long legal battle fighting his termination in 2015. The chief was awarded the settlement in November, but the town is hoping to continue an appeal this year.

Kevin Robinson, chief of the fire department from 2003, was allegedly forced to retire from the department in 2015. The complaint, filed in Plymouth Superior Court in 2020, claims that when Robinson spoke up for a female family member in the department facing discrimination, he was forcefully removed from his position.

Robinson alleged that the Town of Marshfield and two town officials retaliated against him, breached his contract, intentionally interfered with contractual relations, and defamed him. In November, a jury found that Robinson was owed $1,532,652.80.

Robinson claims retaliation and defamation

During his 12 years as chief, Robinson supervised his brother and son, which the town had no issues with, the complaint said. When Shauna Robinson, his niece, joined the department as a firefighter paramedic in 2013, she wasn’t given the same training and support as a male employee, Robinson alleged.

When issues about her performance arose, Shauna was evaluated by two outside fire chiefs and a paramedic, none of whom recommended that she be fired. However, then-Town Administrator Rocco Longo, who has since died, recommended that she be fired. Robinson spoke up for his niece.

“There have been only two occasions during Robinson’s tenure as Chief wherein new members were assessed outside the Department – both of whom were female and both of which were conducted at the direction of Longo,” the complaint said. “Robinson noted that male firefighters who needed additional training had been provided that training in a manner that was not afforded to” Shauna.

The Board of Selectmen — including John Hall, who is named as a defendant — allegedly threatened Robinson’s reputation and suggested he retire, the complaint said. They denied his regular salary increase and his contract extension.

“It was ‘suggested’ that Robinson should retire in September because he will have 35 years of service and to protect his reputation from being damaged,” the civil complaint said. “However, it was the reckless and false statements being made by Clifford, Longo, Hall, and the BOS that were placing Robinson’s reputation at risk.”

But, Robinson still didn’t retire, the complaint said. A few months later, in 2015, he was placed on paid administrative leave after filing a lawsuit against the town. Town officials also implied that Robinson was engaging in criminal misconduct in regards to a state conflict of interest law, the complaint said, and allowed rumors to run rampant.

The complaint said that the State Ethics Commission didn’t take any action against Robinson in regards to the Town’s allegations of conflict of interest.

Robinson felt “he had no choice but to retire” given the town’s actions, according to the complaint, forcing him to miss out on salary and benefits by retiring before the age of 65.

Lawyers for the town filed for a new trial earlier this year. They didn’t return a request for comment.

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