Pilot in Gorilla Mask Fights Suspension

Wearing a gorilla mask on Halloween seemed like a good morale booster for new firefighter recruits, but Daniel Clark wore it while flying a helicopter on a training flight in 2013 and that earned him a suspension.

On Tuesday, Clark sued his bosses at the state Dept. of Forester, Cal Fire, claiming the disciplinary action violated the Firefighter Bill of Rights and amounted to breach of contract.

It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Clark, who was stationed in Santa Clara, wore a gorilla mask during a routine training exercise as a morale booster for new recruits while piloting a helicopter from Los Gatos to San Jose, where the recruits practice fire suppression and rescue operations, according to the complaint.

Weather was clear at the time and the flight was without incident.  But two weeks later his supervisors began an investigation that eventually lead to a suspension and lost pay for violating FAA safety rules.

Clark challenged the discipline with the state Personnel Board, but prior to the hearing Cal Fire settled with him by agreeing to remove the discipline from his record and reinstate his lost waged in exchange for dropping his claim.

But the state delayed and Clark lost his employment status and health insurance after the discipline and incurred medical costs, according to the complaint.

He accused the state of inducing him to waive his rights to the Personnel Board hearing under false pretenses and failing to live up to its deal.

He seeks $650,000 in damages.

Case:  Clark v. Calif Dept of Forestry, No. 15-cv-4808


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