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Former Kemah fire chief gets continuance in suit against department

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Aug 29, 2011

GALVESTON - Former Kemah Volunteer Fire Department Chief Larry Suniga has entered an unopposed motion for continuance into his lawsuit against his ex-employer.

According to the five-page document filed Aug. 12 before the Galveston County 10th District Court, "Suniga requests, and the defendant Kemah Volunteer Fire Department Inc. does not oppose granting a continuance of at least six months in order to conduct discovery now that the claims and the proper parties are before the court."

Suniga is suing KVFD after it allegedly terminated him for not honoring Kemah Mayor Matthew D. Wiggins's requests to overlook fire code violations incurred by several of his business establishments.

A lawsuit filed Oct. 20, 2010, in the same court claims Wiggins questioned the post-Hurricane Ike violations and instructed the plaintiff to falsify inspection certificates so the businesses could reopen.

The original petition asserts Wiggins, who joins the fire department as a co-respondent, "advised that he did not think that the city of Kemah needed a fire code and that he would simply abolish it."

It further explains that the Kemah City Council later approved awarding Suniga overtime pay for his work following Ike only to stop the complainant from taking them.

Suniga adds he was asked to sign a promissory note to repay the overtime compensation he had received, stating the note was an act of retaliation for his refusal to circumvent the fire code.

KVFD fired the plaintiff last Oct. 12, ending his 5-year tenure as volunteer fire chief.

The defendant submitted a plea to the jurisdiction in May in an effort to dismiss Suniga's wrongful termination claim only to have his Sabine Pilot argument removed.

The motion insists it "is not made for purposes of delay, but only so that justice may be done."

Case No. 10-cv-3997

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