Lawsuit with Fargo firefighter who sought $1.8 million for discrimination settled
FARGO — A settlement has been reached with a former Fargo firefighter and state legislator who had sued the city for $1.8 million for what he said was discrimination against him after he was diagnosed with a health issue.
After going into executive session, the Fargo City Commission on Monday night, Jan. 13, voted 5-0 to agree to a settlement that had been mediated in federal court to pay Scot Kelsh $63,000.
Details of the agreement weren't released, but Assistant City Attorney Nancy Morris said the city had a "strong case" and the agreement stated there was "no discrimination or wrongdoing by the city."
Kelsh, who had been a Fargo firefighter for six years and a state legislator representing south-central Fargo for 18 years, said in a telephone interview after the meeting that he was "ready to move on."
He said he's glad there's a system where people can air their grievances and he hoped that "everyone can learn from this."
Kelsh, who was diagnosed with the work-related disability in 2015, said in the federal court lawsuit that he filed in December of 2018 that he had been unable to find another job since he was terminated from his firefighting job in 2016.
Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, Kelsh had appealed his firing to the Fargo Civil Service Commission and the Fargo City Commission. Both upheld his termination.
In the public hearing before the Civil Service Commission, the lawsuit stated that one of the commissioners revealed his disability as PTSD and it became public as various news outlets were at the hearing. Thus, the lawsuit claims, that was the reason Kelsh had been unable to secure a permanent job.
"Kelsh has suffered emotional distress and mental anguish, and damages to his reputation" as a result of the public disclosure of his condition, the lawsuit claimed.
The case also claims that another city firefighter who had a physical disability at about the same time was accommodated by the fire department with 18 to 24 months of light duty assignments, while Kelsh received less than six months of such duties
Kelsh accused the city of discrimination and violation of confidentiality under the federal American Disabilities Act. He's also claimed the city of "disparate treatment" under the federal Rehabilitation Act.
Kelsh said Monday night that he had secured another job and although the money was a fraction of what he sought, he would receive "something," although he agreed his lawyer would get most of the settlement. He was represented by a Minneapolis lawyer.
Representing the city was Grand Forks attorney Howard Swanson, who Morris said was hired by the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund which provides risk services for public entities in the state and covered the expenses and the settlement.
Kelsh said he hopes people are beginning to understand the "effects that trauma can have on people." He said it's something that he treats and lives with every day.