Jim Reyes when he was employed at Idyllwild Fire Department.
File photo

After three years of personnel and legal battles, the Idyllwild Fire Department finally terminated the employment of former Capt. James Reyes.

A settlement was reached in June and July, and became official in late September. At the Sept. 26, Idyllwild Fire Protection District’s commission meeting, Chief Patrick Reitz announced the settlement with Reyes.

Based on the settlement agreement, Reyes received $212,283. IFPD and its insurer each paid half of the total.

Also, since 2014, IFPD has expended several hundred thousand dollars in legal fees to defend the suit. Reyes had served as the department’s emergency services coordinator. IFPD hired a consultant to help with this work after Reyes was removed.

Reyes was placed on administrative leave in January 2014. Reitz made this decision following an emergency involving an infant in Pine Cove, to which both IFPD and Cal Fire Station 23 responded.

In July 2014, Reitz prepared papers terminating Reyes from employment with IFPD.

In February 2015, Reyes filed a suit charging wrongful termination. The following year, an administrative law judge issued an opinion, which largely supported Reyes. However, the commission believed in Reitz’s action and continued the suit.

Early this summer, both parties reached the settlement before the scheduled trial this fall.

The agreement stipulated that IFPD would reinstate Reyes, who would irrevocably file retirement papers with CalPERS the next day. Also, the attorney fees for the litigation would be the responsibility of each party.

Reyes also confirmed that he has accepted a settlement. He is now with the Mohave Valley Fire Department in Arizona.

“I feel I’ve been vindicated and justice has been served,” Reyes said. “I miss the people of Idyllwild. I feel bad I’m not there to help people I’ve known for 25-plus years.”

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