Former Fairbanks firefighters offered their jobs back

Posted: Thursday, May 11, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Two Fairbanks firefighters who successfully sued the city after they were forced to leave their jobs five years ago in a whistleblower case have been offered a chance to return.

Jim Rice and Lee Despain, who won a combined $1.6 million judgment against the city in March, accepted firefighter positions the city offered them in an April 24 letter signed by city attorney Joe Evans.

''I am hoping against hope that we can put a whole lot of lawyers out of work,'' said Despain, who said he and Rice accepted the positions.

No start date was included with the offer.

The Alaska Supreme Court in March unanimously upheld a lower court's ruling that the city had denied them free speech, threatened their jobs and violated the state's Whistleblower Act.

Both resigned in fear of retaliation after reporting that then-Public Safety Director Mike Pulice was overstating his compensatory time.

They sued the city in July of 1995, claiming working conditions were intolerable because Pulice had threatened them and the city had failed to provide adequate protection.

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