A firefighter for the city of Laramie was awarded $280,357 in damages this week after he sued the city for firing him almost seven years ago.
A jury awarded Bret Vance the sum after a trial this week in the Albany County Courthouse.
The verdict was the culmination of years of litigation between Vance and the city after the firefighter was fired in December 2012.
Years of court battles, appeals and overturned decisions led the city to reinstate Vance and fire him again.
Ultimately, the city’s firing of him was determined to be unjustified by Laramie’s Civil Service Commission.
Before the jury issued a verdict in favor of Vance this week, attorneys for the city had tried to argue that the firefighter was not entitled to compensation for lost wages because the Laramie Fire Department’s collective bargaining agreement with employees doesn’t explicitly entitle pay for time not worked.
Those attorneys also argued Vance is only eligible for damages predating June 2013, the last time he was a party to collective bargaining agreement.
The city also contended that it would be illegal for it to pay Vance for lost wages because the Wyoming Constitution bans cities from making “donations to or in aid of any individual.”
The city has a zero tolerance drug policy and also requires firefighters to submit to random drug and alcohol testing. In 2010, Vance tested positive for cocaine, but was subsequently allowed to return to work after attending rehab.
After testing positive for a small amount of alcohol in late 2012, Vance — a shift commander at the time — was placed on administrative leave and subsequently fired.
In November, Vance returned to work with the city as division chief of community risk reduction around the same time a district court judge ordered he be reinstated to a position of equal pay and rank.
Between 2013 and 2016, the city of Laramie was billed more than $78,000 in outside legal fees for Vance’s case, according to documents from a public records request filed by the Laramie Boomerang.
The legal dispute ultimately ended up at the Wyoming Supreme Court, which in 2016 decided that Albany County’s district court lacked the authority to review the Civil Service Commission’s decision at the city’s request.