Bearden vs. OS: Bathke off the top rope

In pro wrestling, a wrestler will tag in with his partner, then “come off the top” rope to pummel an opponent. A legal version of this seems to have dropped this week. Background: Travis Bearden, a long-time Ocean Shores firefighter, filed a lawsuit in January, claiming the city and Mayor Crystal Dingler “attempted to find a legal method to terminate his employment due to his military obligations, but were unable to do so.” In February, the city responded in court, rejecting Bearden’s claims: “Defendant denies that it tried to terminate plaintiff due to his military obligations.” Judge Benjamin Settle –who ruled in David Bathke‘s favor, awarding him $730,000 in a lawsuit claiming the city unfairly fired him as fire chief — refused to toss out the case, giving Bearden a jury trial date of March 1, 2022.

This week, the Bearden case got really interesting. Bearden’s attorney filed an “amended complaint,” with a key addition: An affidavit from Bathke, who, fresh off cashing a big check from Ocean Shores, not only supports Bearden’s claims, but takes them to a potentially explosive level, alleging a Shakespearean conspiracy of firefighters eager to stab Bearden in the back. From this week’s Bearden filing:

“…During all of the above listed events and behind the scene, City of Ocean Shores Mayor, Crystal Dingler engaged in a diabolical scheme to destroy Mr. Bearden’s fire-fighting career. As stated in sworn an affidavit from former Fire Chief, David Bathke: I, DAVID BATHKE, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746, declare as follows: I am competent to testify and have personal knowledge about what is written in this declaration.

1) I served as the Chief of the City of Ocean Shores Fire Department between 2017 – 2019.

2) During that time-period Travis Bearden was a firefighter under my command.

3) I was aware that Mr. Bearden was in the U.S. Army Reserves and, in some instances, had to deploy with the U.S. Army.

4) While I was serving as Fire Chief, I became very familiar with the City of Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dinger.

5) I had an adjected office to Crystal Dinger and we shared a door with a small window between our offices, which were located at the fire station. I spoke with her often and she was heavily involved in the hiring and firing of Fire Department employees.

6) Mayor Dinger verbally directed me not to hire anyone that was an active military reservist and, on several occasions, asked me if applicants and candidates were in the military reserves so she could reject their applications.

7) Mayor Dingler stated to me on more than one occasion that she was getting pressure from Captain Mike Thuirer, Captain Matt Krick, Lt Corey Kuhl, Lt. Joe Hoffman, and FF Cody Plantcich to find a way to discipline and terminate Lt Bearden’s employment because of his time away for military duties and it was limiting their ability to select time off.

8) Mayor Dingler directed me to collaborate with Attorney Beth Mcintyre, the above named individuals and eventually HR Specialist Danni Smith to pressure and require advanced written documentation of military leave orders from Lt Bearden in hopes he would resign his employment or Mayor Crystal Dingler could terminate him for insubordination.

9) Captain Mike Thuirer, Captain Matt Krick, Lt Corey Kuhl, Lt. Joe Hoffman, and FF Cody Plantcich on separate occasions stated to me that they were going to make Travis Bearden’s life at the fire station “Living Hell” and they were going to bully Travis to resign as Union President. They also mentioned that they were working with the Mayor and Attorney Beth Mcintyre to “get enough dirt” on Travis to have his employment terminated.

10) Lt Corey Kuhl stated to me he “hated” Travis and that Travis was his “Nemesis” and that Travis had applied for a Training Officer position with another fire department, but did not get the job because of his military commitment. He further stated “he can’t wait for Travis be gone permanently from Shores”.

11) Travis Bearden was hired by the City of Ocean Shores Fire Department prior to Mayor Dingler becoming Mayor of Ocean Shores. Mayor Dingler disliked Travis Bearden being in the military reserves because his service had a negative budgetary impact on the City of Ocean Shores Fire Department staff overtime. ln addition to causing a toxic attitude with the rank and file union firefighters due to it limiting their selection of vacation and Kelly time off due to Travis filling one of the two available time slots with his military time off.

12) Mayor Dingler stated on numerous occasions that the “Fire Men” had met with her and demanded she find a way to “Fire” Travis Bearden because of his military service. She further would constantly question me as to my progress in finding a way to discipline Travis Bearden so the city could effectively terminate his employment.

13) Mayor Dingler stated to me she discussed with Captain Mike Thuirer, Captain Matt Krick, Lt Corey Kuhl, Lt. Joe Hoffman, and FF Cody Plantcich to gather social media posts and through their own information gathering to find a false pretext so the mayor could discipline and terminate Travis Bearden from the City of Ocean Shores fire department.

14) I was further directed by Mayor Dingler to accept and place all letters drafted by Attorney Beth Mcintyre on my Fire Department letterhead concerning Travis Bearden’s use of military leave. Attorney Mcintyre stated to me that her husband had been in that same reserve unit and she would see what “dirt” she could dig up on Travis.

15) In July 2018 HR Specialist Dani Smith stated she worked with Travis’s wife at a prior employer and she was working with Lt Corey Kuhl, Lt. Joe Hoffman, and FF Cody Plantcich to gain knowledge about Travis’s personal life from Travis’s wife that could be used against him.

16) For the reasons stated above I believe Travis has been discriminated against at the City of Ocean Shores Fire Department for his military service and is likely to continue to be harassed and discriminated against by the city staff and fire department members.”

Later today: The city responds.

From Bathke’s affidavit

2 Comments

  1. John says:

    Ouch.

    Like

  2. Anonymous says:

    I can’t believe what I just read! It sounds like the entire OSFD is scandalous. The mayor is despicable to say the least & the supposed HR Specialist Dani Smith is no better. Neither one of them has any business holding the position they have.

    Like

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