Former EMS captain files lawsuit against Delmar Fire Department

DELMAR — A former EMS captain is suing the Delmar Fire Department, the town and an ex-chief, claiming she was groped and then “essentially terminated” after reporting it to officials.

April D. Molchan filed the lawsuit on Jan. 15, alleging discrimination, emotional distress, and battery. She is seeking back pay, front pay and compensatory damages, and has requested a jury trial.

The plaintiff alleged the then-fire chief touched her on the inner thigh at a Greenwood restaurant on Sept. 8, 2015, and put his hand on her buttocks on July 30, 2017 as he walked behind her from a lounge area. The defendant was fire chief during the first supposed incident and president and second assistant chief for the second, the lawsuit said.

About a week after the 2017 supposed groping, Ms. Molchan said she spoke with the DFD’s house committee chairman.

“Molchan told (the chair) that she was afraid to ‘write up’ the incident and, in the absence of the required posting and/or handbook (in the station), was unsure about her right to make a complaint,” the lawsuit read.

Following the chairman’s advice, Ms. Monchan claimed to send an email to DFD leadership with an attached complaint.

At the monthly DFD membership meeting on Aug. 21, 2017, Ms. Molchan said she was pulled aside by the chief and informed that the defendant had been asked to resign as president.

During the ensuing meeting with the entire membership present, Ms. Molchan claimed her “improper conduct” complaint was announced. She was not named specifically, Ms. Molchan said, but the complaint’s source was described as an associate member and employee.

Officials announced that the defendant was suspended for not more than 30 days during an investigation. Ms. Molchan filed paperwork with the Delaware Department of Labor.

At an Aug. 28, 2017 meeting the DFD house committee, Ms. Molchan said she had been identified to leadership as filing the complaint. She claimed to be “questioned in a hostile and accusatory manner at the meeting, especially as to her DDOL complaint.”

Fifty members were present at a September meeting when the plaintiff’s request to have nothing to do with the defendant were allegedly ignored. She claimed that the defendant was in the room despite the earlier suspension.

A committee’s report about the investigation, including accounts from both side, was read. The defendant allegedly acknowledged “that the incident ‘may have happened’ by the ladder truck and that he had hit (Ms.) Molchan’s thigh.”

Camera footage reviewed

According to the complaint, the house committee’s review of camera footage “showed that (the defendant) .. had indeed touched (Ms.) Molchan was alleged.” Leadership recommended that the defendant be expelled.

At the meeting, according to the lawsuit, the defendant “was given the chance to speak in his defense … He admitted that (he) ‘did it’ because he and (Ms.) Molchan had been friends for years but he did not think that (Ms.) Molchan would be offended.”

The defendant supposedly “went on a tirade against (Ms.) Molchan” claiming DFD knew “she likes things done in a certain way,” He alleged that the plaintiff had “OCD” and a “Type-A” personality and had retaliated against him for a previous disagreement at an earlier meeting.

“While (the defendant) was speaking (Ms.) Molchan was writing in her notebook and (the president) called out to her, ‘go ahead, write this down too.’ “

Ms. Molchan responded that there was no retaliation, “that the incident was completely unprovoked and occurred when the (president) exited a meeting about another matter …”

After the meeting, Ms. Molchan was unhappy that her letter was read to the entire membership. The fire chief allegedly “described prior ‘counseling that (the defendant) had received because of touching other females inappropriately.”

At a membership meeting on Sept. 18, 2017, a motion to expel the defendant failed to reach the required two-thirds vote by the house committee, according to the lawsuit.

At the DFD’s annual election of officers on Oct. 16, 2017, the defendant was nominated for the chief engineer position. He did not win the election but was subsequently appointed to the position a month later.

At the 2018 election, the defendant was selected to a lieutenant’s position, the complaint claimed.

On Dec. 27, 2017, Ms. Monchan alleged that she was “essentially terminated” by the DFD employment committee “by removing her from her schedule and canceling all of the shifts that she had already been scheduled to work. (The chairman) also informed Delmar to remove (Ms.) Molchan from the payroll.”

The Department of Labor issued a right to sue notice on both complaints on Oct. 17, 2018, the lawsuit said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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