Kansas City seeks stiffer punishment for firefighter who killed three people in crash

A crew from Kansas City Fire Station 19 responded to a call in December 2021 when Dominic Biscari ran a red light and crashed into a car in the intersection and then three parked cars, killing three people. The city hopes to overturn an arbitration decision that Biscari could only be suspended for three days. The city had said it would seek to fire him. (Allison Kite/Missouri Independent)

Kansas City officials are hoping to overturn an arbitrator’s decision that a firefighter who crashed a fire truck and killed three people could only receive a three-day suspension.

On Tuesday, the city of Kansas City filed a motion in Jackson County Circuit Court to vacate an arbitration decision that determined Dominic Biscari could only be suspended for three days after he ran a red light in a fire department pumper truck and crashed into a car in the Westport neighborhood, killing both the driver and passenger. 

Biscari then veered and hit three parked cars, killing a pedestrian and running into a building that ultimately collapsed. He was charged with three felonies, and according to the city, lawsuits by loved ones of the deceased and the building’s owner have cost Kansas City $3.2 million.

After the crash, the city sought to suspend Biscari pending an investigation, citing the three felony charges. The city told him, according to documents filed Tuesday in circuit court, that the suspension would remain in effect until his felony charges were adjudicated. 

But the firefighters’ union, International Association of Firefighters Local 42, filed a grievance against the city, stating it was shocked at the suspension, which it said violated a previous arbitration decision, according to the city’s filing. The decision that Biscari could only be suspended for three days came as a result of that grievance.

According to the city’s petition, the arbitrator reached the decision, which it argues was an overreach, “without any explanation of how he arrived at a three-day suspension,”

“But it amounted to one day for each death and one day for each million dollars that (the) firefighter’s fatality accident cost the city,” the petition says.

Representatives from the union, as well as Biscari’s attorney, did not respond to requests for comment.

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In February 2023, roughly 15 months after the crash, Bascari was charged with three felony counts of involuntary manslaughter in the second degree. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation and 40 hours of community service. 

The city notified him of his suspension that same week. Interim Fire Chief Ross Grundyson told the Kansas City Star at the time that the department was suspending Biscari without pay and seeking to terminate his employment.

A few weeks later in March 2023, the union filed its grievance concerning Biscari’s suspension, saying it violated a previous arbitration decision concerning whether suspending firefighters pending an investigation violated their just cause and due process rights. 

The city’s petition emphasizes that the union’s grievance dealt with the suspension — not the investigation of the crash or any ultimate disciplinary action.

The issue went to an arbitrator to determine whether the city had cause to suspend Bascari and whether it gave him due process. The arbitrator decided last month in favor of the union. The decision, however, went beyond the question of whether the suspension was justified, the city argues in its petition. 

“The arbitrator issued discipline on the underlying fatality accident: that (the) firefighter only be suspended for three days and that most references to the underlying fatality accident be removed from his personnel file,” the city’s motion says. The arbitrator also ordered that the city pay Local 42 for its costs in pursuing the grievance. 

In its Tuesday filing, the city says Missouri’s Uniform Arbitration Act requires that a court overturn an arbitration decision if the arbitrator “exceeds their powers,” which the city argues occurred. 

The city repeatedly emphasizes that the arbitrator should have only issued an order on the suspension. It also says its collective bargaining agreement with Local 42 states parties to an arbitration will bear their own costs and that the arbitrator overstepped in awarding the union fees. 

“The city had not found him negligent with respect to the underlying fatality accident and had not fashioned discipline for such a finding were it to occur,” the motion says. “Despite this, the arbitrator took it upon himself to write a prospective cure for a future, hypothetical dispute that was not before him.” 

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