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Former Flint fire chief files lawsuit over his firing, claims mayor wanted him to alter report on fatal fire

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Steve Carmody
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Michigan Radio
“He knew what he was supposed to do and that was the right thing...and he got fired for it," said attorney Arnold Reed, who represents former Flint Fire Chief Ray Barton.

Former Flint Fire Chief Ray Barton has filed a $10 million federal lawsuit against the city and Mayor Sheldon Neeley.

In the lawsuit, Barton claims he was fired last year because he refused to alter a report on a fatal house fire where two young boys suffered smoke inhalation and later died.

The two boys were not found during an initial sweep of the two-alarm house fire. Approximately six minutes after the initial search, firefighters discovered the boys, ages 9 and 12, in a second-floor bedroom. The two later died of smoke inhalation.

In his report, Barton accused two firefighters who conducted the initial search of misconduct.

But Barton says the mayor wanted him to cover up the alleged firefighter misconduct to maintain his support from the Flint’s firefighters’ union ahead of his re-election in November.

“What was the chief supposed to do,” attorney Arnold Reed, who represents Barton in the lawsuit. “He knew what he was supposed to do and that was the right thing...and he got fired for it.”

Mayor Sheldon Neeley fired Barton nine days after he won re-election.

“I feel like a person in the military getting a dishonorable discharge,” Barton told reporters Monday. “The problem is I didn’t do anything wrong. All I did was tell the truth.”

A spokeswoman for Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley says the city has not yet been served with a lawsuit and has no comment at this time.

The family of the two boys who died have filed its own lawsuit.

The Michigan State Police has launched its own investigation into any potential criminal intent in response to the fire.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.