WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - West Palm Beach Fire Rescue Capt. Rick Curtis, an applicant for assistant fire chief, has been found guilty of driving under the influence and has been sentenced to three days in jail and 12 months probation.
Circuit Court Judge Marni Bryson justified her sentencing by explaining that Curtis was argumentative and tried to use his position as a fire captain to his benefit, according to a courtroom source who didn't want to be identified.
Curtis, 45, was arrested in January 2010 by North Palm Beach Police and charged with DUI. He was also charged with speeding, but that charge was dropped.
Curtis is one of three West Palm Beach fire-rescue workers who unsuccessfully sued the fire department, claiming that they were denied promotions because of their race.
However, in August 2010, the Palm Beach County Office of Equal Opportunity confirmed Curtis' long-held beliefs that he was discriminated against. The city is appealing the county's ruling because the city believes the county did not have jurisdiction.
The city ignored orders to pay Curtis $56,506 in lost wages and $24,000 in attorney fees. The board also ordered the city to give him the next open battalion chief or assistant chief position. He would become the department's highest-ranking black.
Last week, Curtis said he was applying to serve as assistant fire chief. The current assistant, Carlos Cabrera, will serve as interim chief when Phil Webb retires next week. Curtis said he eventually planned to apply for chief.
Curtis also said he believes his arrest was suspicious and possibly triggered by coworkers. Capt. David Nelson was forced to retire early for lampooning Curtis in a video posted on the internet after the DUI arrest.
"I was completely innocent," Curtis said. "The North Palm Beach officers were very rude and it was just a nightmare how they treated me. It was just a whole lot to be coincidental. I know it adversely affected me from applying for jobs around the country."
Chief Webb said the case is under investigation. Webb said not all firefighters lose their job for DUIs, and that each arrest is handled on a case-to-case basis.
"Certainly we would look into the circumstances," Webb said.
In court Wednesday, the judge also ordered Curtis' license suspended for six months and his vehicle immobilized for 10 days. Within three months Curtis is required to enroll in DUI school, do 50 hours of community service, enroll in Victim Impact Panel, not consume drugs or alcohol while on probation and pay $951 in court costs and fees.
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