Former La Marque fire chief files discrimination suit

By John Suayan, Galveston Bureau | Nov 28, 2011

GALVESTON - A former La Marque fire chief alleges the city retaliated against him because he brought up a civil rights claim, recent court documents say.

Todd Zacherl explains in court papers filed Nov. 22 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas that he is a victim of "reverse discrimination." He alleges La Marque's former city manager falsely accused him of being a racist as a way to avenge an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report.

Zacherl served as chief of the La Marque Fire Department since 2003 and was with the department for almost 20 years before he stepped down.

According to the suit, the plaintiff was informed on Dec. 3, 2009, that his fire marshal duties were being stripped away and given to another person by the name of Efren Burns.

Zacherl, a Caucasian male, initially filed an EEOC complaint on Feb. 14, 2010, asserting Burns, an African American male, could not be fire marshal under state law as long as he was chief.

The original petition further shows that then-City Manager Eric Gage "engaged in conduct designed to retaliate against the plaintiff."

A few of Gage's alleged actions include, but are not limited to coercing Burns and another employee to file a complaint against the fire department and hiring an outside company to conduct an investigation, the suit reveals.

Gage, who himself resigned from his post three months ago, is also reported to have made defamatory statements about the complainant to The Galveston County Daily News.

Zacherl says his decision to dismiss two firefighters for failing to obtain their Class C commercial driver's licenses earlier this year prompted Gage to place him on administrative leave with pay.

The plaintiff tendered his resignation afterwards.

He consequently sues for unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

Attorney Anthony P. Griffin of Galveston is representing Zacherl, and U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the case.

Case No. 3:11-cv-518

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