San Diego paramedic says Fire Department officials targeted him for his military service

Navy reservist claims Fire Department officials disciplined him for reporting for military duty

San Diego paramedic, Michael Meoli, no longer wants to be punished for being a Navy Reservist.

On February 6, the 16-year veteran paramedic and reserve Seal Operator Chief and Special Operations Combat Medic for the Navy accuses San Diego Fire Department supervisors of harassment and of doling out unwarranted disciplinary actions for days he requested off in order to fulfill military assignments.

"Plaintiff has... been consistently derided and chided for his military service by management employees, and others, of the Department," reads the lawsuit filed in the U.S. Ninth District court.

"On several occasions Meoli has been the subject of disciplinary proceedings at the hands of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for matters not routinely subject to inquiry when they involve other, non-military related members of the Department."

The lawsuit included some examples of the alleged mistreatment that Meoli has experienced since joining the department in 1997.

Within the two years preceding the filing of this Complaint, [plaintiff] received an anonymous call while on the job at a Fire Station relating to his refusal to accept an overtime assignment, and accusing him of making said refusal because he valued his military reservist assignments over his job at the Department. In fact, [he] refused the assignment in question because he had reservist assignment which conflicted with the demand that he perform overtime. Plaintiff has otherwise, on numerous occasions, been consistently derided and chided for his military service by management employees, and others, of the Department.

Meoli has been the subject of disciplinary investigations and adverse action, plainly unwarranted, for matters as minute as sending an e-mail to a discrete group of interested individuals relating to suicide prevention for former combat veterans during the November through January holiday season.

Things came to a head in February 2012, when Battalion Chief Dave Pilkerton accused Meoli of yelling at supervisors and shaking hands and patting Chief Pilkerton on the back in an aggressive manner. A shift commander present at the firehouse called the police department asking that Meoli be removed from the premises.

During the telephone call to emergency services, [the shift commander] mentioned that Meoli was a Navy Seal, STAR team member (as a medic assisting on San Diego Police Department SWAT calls), and therefore presented a threat of violence (such as being armed).

Meoli was not, and never has been while on the job with the Department, armed with any firearm as implied by Stowell’s suggestion of violence. The clear import of Stowell’s suggestion was that Meoli required a heightened level of scrutiny, and indeed that he had been treated during that incident differently, because of his status as a U.S. Navy SEAL.

Officers on the scene directly thereafter confirm that nothing Meoli was alleged to have done that day that resulted in his immediate suspension from service (i.e., the handshake or pat on the back) was illegal. Officers also confirmed that Meoli did not have a firearm.

The reservist is suing the City for income and employment benefits lost by being forced to use leave time from the fire department in order to fulfill his obligation to the Navy.

Go here to read the complaint:

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This is very strange, because it is the public sector that provides the bulk of personnel to the active reserves. (Private industry is a different story, and not generally a favorable one.) Usually reservists can get all the time off they need to fulfill their obligations with no questions asked, and many governmental agencies will actually pay the reservist while off the job. That means, of course, the reservist is getting paid twice when that is done.

Years ago, many public safety people were in the reserves and national guard. For a long time, they were exempted from call-up if the unit were activated because of their critical occupations. That practice seemed to have been eliminated or sharply reduced in 1991/2 when the Desert Storm call-ups were used to augment the forces sent to the Gulf. Just a very unexpected claim, and one can only wonder if there is much more to this story. I'd bet there is.

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