CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A firefighter fired from the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department has filed a whistleblower lawsuit in Fayette County Circuit Court.
James Robert Bowles alleges that he was fired in November 2011 after raising questions about fire department finances, according to the lawsuit filed by Charleston attorney Mike Clifford.
Bowles was suspended from the department in September 2011. A letter sent to Bowles alleges that Bowles was fired for continuing to talk to other firefighters, showing up at the scene of fires and defaming the fire chief and other firefighters after he was suspended.
However, Clifford says Bowles was really fired for accusing former Smithers Fire Chief Timothy Whittington of using department funds for personal use.
In August, Whittington pleaded guilty in Fayette County Circuit Court to embezzlement for using department money to pay his personal bills. Under a plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed fraud charges against his wife.
State audits for the Smithers Volunteer Fire Department in 2010 revealed more than $18,000 in illegal or improper expenditures by the department.
In the lawsuit, Bowles requests damages, to be reinstated to his position and for copies of all checks, receipts, invoices, bank statements for any department accounts, copies of agreements with any outside corporation or business and minutes of any department meetings for the past five years.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.