March 21, 2015, St. Louis, Missouri…Robin Harris, president of the Monarch Fire Protection District Board of Directors, and Jane Cunningham, board secretary, have been sued for discrimination in a three-count complaint filed by a former employee of the district who is disabled. The lawsuit demands a jury trial.
The lawsuit filed by former Monarch district Firefighter/Paramedic and Public Education Officer Ray Antonacci on March 5, 2015, in the Circuit Court of St. Louis County, Missouri Eastern District (Case #4:15-cv-00412), charges Harris and Cunningham with:
• One count of discrimination on the basis of disability and/or perceived disability;
• One count of denying freedom of association, employment rights and protections granted under law by eliminating the position of Public Education Officer and refusing to hire Antonacci for positions for which he was qualified, including Fire Inspector;
• One count of retaliation for reporting acts of discrimination, including violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act.
Antonacci was a Monarch firefighter/paramedic for ten years before suffering a debilitating accident in 2009 and undergoing 11 months of physical rehab. He was hired by the Monarch District as Public Education Officer (PEO) in February 2013. In September, 2013, Monarch Board Members Robin Harris and Jane Cunningham voted to eliminate the district’s PEO position and notified Antonacci that, effective December 31, he would not have a job at the district.
Antonacci currently wears a leg brace and uses a cane since suffering the motorcycle accident requiring a seven-week hospital stay and nearly a year of physical rehab. While on crutches he earned a fire inspector’s certification before being hired as the district’s PEO.
As PEO, Antonacci taught CPR to more than 100 different people and also developed fire emergency plans and safety programs for churches, schools, senior citizen centers, businesses and the Boy Scouts.
He managed the district’s AED (automatic external defibrillator) training; the hard wired smoke detectors replacement program; emergency action planning for businesses; fire and fall prevention for senior citizens in independent and assisted living centers; home safety presentations at subdivision meetings; and the Boy Scout “Red Card” training before scouts go to camp.
He also managed disaster and tornado preparedness programs for adults and youth; the “Tools, Not Toys” fire safety program for elementary schools; the “Exit Drills in the Home” program; the “Stop, Drop & Roll” fire safety program; the “Kitchen Fire & Safety Program” for middle schools; “Career Path Education” programs for high school students and the “Distracted Driver” program for teens earning their driver licenses.
The lawsuit notes that while Antonacci was PEO Board Secretary Jane Cunningham stated at an open board meeting: “We should not have to take care of people that get in motorcycle accidents off duty.”
Before his accident, Antonacci was a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 2665, and held a leadership role as Shop Steward. The lawsuit notes that Cunningham publicly compared Local 2665 to “the mafia” and a “corrupt cartel,” and Cunningham stated: “We must kill this beast.”
Antonacci is currently chief administrator of the Lincoln County (Missouri) Ambulance District. Monarch board member Steve Swyers is not named in the lawsuit.