A former fire chief is suing Northville Township officials over what he claims was wrongful termination this year.

Township officials have said Richard Marinucci voluntarily resigned his $116,000-a-year post in March, but the ex-chief says they fired him.

The lawsuit was filed in Wayne County Circuit Court last week. Those named in the suit include Township Manager Chip Snider and Public Safety Director John Werth.

The lawsuit says about 20 minutes after a meeting March 15 about issues related to a township audit, Werth “told (Marinucci) to resign or be fired.” .

The day after that meeting, the fire chief told Werth he “would not resign without meeting at least some” township officials, according to the lawsuit. The request was denied; Marinucci told Werth he refused to resign but “would have to be fired” instead.

“We continue to maintain that he hasn’t resigned despite the township continuing to tell people that he resigned,” his attorney, Jill Schinske, said Monday night.

Werth wrote in an email to The Detroit News: “We will not discuss personnel issues in the press. Now that there is a lawsuit, there will be no further comment by Northville township. We look forward to providing our side in a court of law.”

In the lawsuit, Schinske argues that “members of the fire community rightfully question why a 62-year-old fire chief would resign and not retire, causing numerous people to question Plaintiff’s departure and his integrity.”

Before joining Northville Township, Marinucci spent 32 years with the Farmington Hills Fire Department, including 24 as chief. He also has led numerous professional firefighter groups, including as president at the International Association of Fire Chiefs and executive director for the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, a national nonprofit that promotes safety standards and practices.

While at Northville Township, Marinucci “was an excellent employee, regularly receiving praise from his superiors, and he was encouraged to continue his involvement in the different fire service organizations,” according to the lawsuit.

Marinucci was an at-will employee, and his employment could be terminated at any time without explanation. The lawsuit claims he was not terminated for just-cause and seeks at least $25,000 in damages.

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