Dolans win $900K in settlement with NHP fire department, commissioners

Dolans win $900K in settlement with NHP fire department, commissioners
Michael Dolan Sr. and Michael Dolan Jr., with attorney

Longtime firefighters Michael Dolan Sr. and son Michael Dolan Jr.’s legal battle culminated with a $900,000 settlement with the New Hyde Park Fire Department, the duo and legal counsel announced on Tuesday morning, six years after a wrongful arrest and termination from the fire department.

The Dolans, both volunteer firefighters and veterans, previously argued that the department had accused them of stealing smoke detectors in retaliation for holding unpopular views.

A jury in U.S. District Court in Central Islip in 2017 first awarded the firefighters $625,000 in damages for “malicious prosecution” and “abuse of process” against the two, after its Board of Commissioners had them wrongfully arrested for stealing smoke detectors from their firehouse slated for senior citizens.

Rick Ostrove, the Dolans’ attorney, said the defendants – which included New Hyde Park Fire Department, current fire Commissioner Michael Bonura, and former commissioners John DiVello, Richard Stein and John Brown – then tried to make a post-trial motion to vacate the jury award.

After a judge upheld the ruling, the defendants appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Ostrove said. In settlement talks during this appeal, Ostrove said, the two sides reached a $900,000 settlement.

“My name was cleared, my dignity came back and my integrity… I can hold my head up high again,” Dolan Sr., a Vietnam veteran and 50-year member of the New Hyde Park Fire Department, said on Tuesday. “It took a long time to do this and I’m happy it’s over.”

“We kept on fighting, we never gave up. Every time they did an appeal, every time we went to court, we never settled,” Dolan Jr., an Iraq War veteran and member of the New York City Fire Department, added. “We always wanted to fight. Every time we went to court we won and they kept on appealing, kept on wasting taxpayer dollars. So now, finally, they have no choice but to wave the white flag.”

Ostrove said the Nassau County Firefighters Museum donated the smoke detectors to be installed in the homes of senior citizens homes but Michael Dolan Sr., who was at the time a fire commissioner, removed the smoke detectors because he noticed they were going missing.

After the fire commissioners asked Dolan Sr. to return them, Ostrove said his clients did. But when they went missing again and Dolan once more tried to secure them in his home, Ostrove said the commissioners reported it to the police and his clients were “earmarked” as felons “for trying to do the right thing by their community.”

Prosecutors dropped the charges against the Dolans, citing “insufficient evidence” for theft. But the Dolans were removed from the Fire Department in April 2013 after disciplinary charges were brought up against them.

Michael Dolan Jr. was reinstated in April 2013 around the same time his father had been removed in a closed hearing by the Board of Commissioners.

In a separate July 2016 state court ruling, Michael Dolan Sr. was ordered to be reinstated to the fire department.

The Dolans first filed their suit against the commissioners 15 months after their July 2012 arrest on felony grand larceny charges, with officials having initially said there were 65 smoke detectors worth $50 a piece stolen.

Witnesses later testified there were only a few dozen and only worth $10 a piece.

“I’m sure they spent a fortune to defend themselves over the course of the last six years,” Ostrove said. “They paid well in excess of a million dollars, when in reality they didn’t even have to call the police in the first place.”

Greg Reilly of Martin Clearwater & Bell, the defendants’ attorney in the case, was not immediately available for comment on Tuesday.

The New Hyde Park Fire Department could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

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