A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a claim by three volunteer fire departments that Montgomery County cut their budgets for opposing the ambulance fee.
Kensington, Bethesda and Cabin John volunteer fire departments had challenged county cuts to their fiscal 2011 budgets after the voters’ overturning of the ambulance fee, alleging that the cut was done in retaliation for the strong volunteer opposition to the fee. The cuts resulted in the elimination of administrative personnel who were paid by the county but were not county employees, under the county code.
The U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in June the dismissal of the case by the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
In dismissing the case, the District Court declined to inquire into the volunteers’ complaint that the county had another motive behind its budget cuts.
“It’s disheartening,” said Ron Dowdy Jr., president of the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department.
Losing the case will make it that much harder to operate the station, he said.
“It’s upsetting because not only are we losing employees, but these employees have become our friends,” he said. “It is never an easy thing to see someone lose their job.”
For now, Dowdy said it appears as if the case is closed.
County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said the county’s mid-fiscal year cuts were not retaliatory and included other reductions than just to staff at volunteer departments.