Former Flint, Michigan, fire chief Raymond Burton has filed a federal $10 million lawsuit against the city and its mayor. Alleging he was fired because he refused to help cover up a house fire that killed two young brothers.
Burton said in a lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court that Mayor Sheldon Neely tried to pressure. Him to cover up alleged misconduct by then-firefighters Daniel Snigocki and Michael Zlotek. Who claimed they “thoroughly” searched a Pulaski Street home in May. 28 after the fire broke out on the first floor.
Snigocki and Zlotek said they found no one in the burning home and gave the “all clear” to other firefighters on the scene, the lawsuit says. A second team of firefighters later entered the home and found Lamar Mitchell, 9, and Zaire Mitchell, 12, his brother in a second-floor bedroom.
Burton’s attorney said in a news release that the brothers, who were home alone, were alive and taken to the hospital in critical condition. Detroit Free Press reported. In November, the boys’ families announced plans to file a separate lawsuit.
Two firefighters gave the ‘all clear’. After a few minutes the boys were found.
Phone numbers listed for Snigoki and Zlotek, who resigned, could not be reached for comment. They have denied any wrongdoing by their union, the Free Press reported.
The firefighters’ union, Neely’s office and a city attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.
Six firefighters responded to the two-alarm electrical fire. The lawsuit says they were all told people were likely in the home.
Snigoki and Zlotek entered the room. According to the suit, Snigocki used a hose to fight the fire on the first floor and told Zlotek to go upstairs to conduct a search. Sniegocki eventually went up to help Zlotek, the lawsuit says.
Zlotek said he used infrared equipment and thermal imaging cameras to find people who “may not be visible to the naked eye,” it said. They both told other firefighters at the scene that the house was “all clear,” meaning no one was inside, the lawsuit says.
“At that point, a second set of firefighters entered the home, went upstairs and immediately found ZM, age 12, and LM, age 9, in a bedroom,” the lawsuit says. “Firefighters found LM on the floor in the doorway of their shared bedroom; ZM was lying on the bed in that room.”
According to the lawsuit, the boys were found about seven minutes after Snigocki and Zlotek said the house was clean. The children were not covered by any material and were “visible to the naked eye,” it said.
After he found out what had happened, Barton investigated and determined that Snigoki. they claimed they conducted searches, they ZM and find LM. ” says the suit.
“Based on Snigocki and Zlotek’s dishonesty. And failure to perform their duties, Chief Burton recommended that the two firefighters. Be suspended without pay pending. A final investigation and released at the conclusion of that investigation,” it said.
The lawsuit alleges that because Neely was up for re-election at the time. And needed the firefighter union’s support, he didn’t want Burton to overrule Snigocki and Zlotek.
Suspend the firefighters with pay and drop the recommendation to fire them,” the suit says. NBC News has not independently verified the claim.
The former fire chief said the termination appeared to be a ‘dishonorable discharge’
Barton “refused to serve Mayor Neely’s personal, political interests by lying to the public under the guise of gross misconduct. And fraudulent conduct by two firefighters,” the document states. Nine days after Neely’s re-election on Nov. 8, Neely fired him, according to the lawsuit.
In a Nov. 18 news release, the city announced Theron Wiggins as interim fire chief.
Breaking out after Snigocki and Zlotek left the house.
She said the bed frame sat on the floor and the only closet in the room was not suitable for either child. “The children had nowhere to hide,” she said.
Said his firing felt like a “dishonorable discharge” from the military.
“The problem is I didn’t do anything wrong. All I did was tell the truth,” he said.
Burton’s attorney, Arnold Reed, said at the press conference