City of Salem withdraws appeal to Oregon Supreme Court, will pay firefighter’s widow
SALEM, Ore. (KPTV) - The City of Salem manager Keith Stahley announced he instructed the city attorney to withdraw a petition to the Oregon Supreme Court regarding the payment of benefits following the death of a Salem firefighter at a City Council meeting Monday.
Maurice Stadeli, more commonly known as “Mo,” served as a firefighter in Salem for 28 years before he was diagnosed with tonsillar cancer in 2018 and died a year later. Mo’s wife, Tina, has been fighting for her husband’s death to be considered a line-of-duty death, and she won that fight in 2021 through the Oregon Appellate Court.
Because cancer is the leading cause of death among firefighters, under state law, Mo’s death was considered a line-of-duty death.
However, about two weeks ago, on the last day the city of Salem could appeal they did so, saying his cancer diagnosis was not caused by years of being a firefighter, but say it was due to a pre-existing medical condition. The appeal came days after Mo’s name had already been placed on the IAFF memorial wall in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Not only could the appeal have taken away Mo’s line-of-duty death designation, but it could have taken away the benefits his family would’ve received.
The Salem firefighter union president, Matt Brozovich, released a statement, saying:
“This is all or nothing for his widow Tina. His estate was rightfully awarded a line of duty death benefit from the Oregon Appellate Court. If she loses that, she loses everything for a job that he loved and worked so hard for. Mo was a stand-up man, father, husband, brother and firefighter. To strip this away from his widow isn’t only wrong, it’s criminal.”
The reason the city of Salem cited appealing the designation is because they believed the Court of Appeals misinterpreted Oregon Workers Compensation Law. They said if their effort to appeal doesn’t work, then the city of Salem and other Oregon employers will pay higher insurance premiums because of an illness that was unrelated to working conditions.
“We face tough decisions and this is certainly one of them where we must balance our responsibility to all residents in safeguarding the City against future liability and protecting the City’s future fiscal health so that we can continue to serve our community,” the city of Salem said in a statement.
Following the meeting Tina Stadeli says she was shocked by the announcement.
“I was expecting them to say they would take it into consideration, but for them to just come right out and say we’re going to stop it, it was pretty amazing,” said Stadeli. “What these guys have fought for and done was amazing. I’m very relieved.”
She also voiced her gratefulness at the support she’s received.
“It’s been incredible,” “I had an incredible husband. The support has just been amazing. I’ve been doing this fight since 2019 and it’s been back forth, back and forth to court. The support I have had these last few weeks…I don’t know how to say it. It’s been like having 3,500 new members of my family all of a sudden. These guys have just stood up and said some incredible things. I don’t know how to express my love to them and my respect.”
Matt Brozovich, President for Salem Professional Firefighters Local 314, says he felt relief at the news.
“Not relief for the Local or the firefighters, but relief for Tina and her family,” said Brozovich. “They have been fighting this fight for almost four years. This is what she deserves, this is the peace that she deserves. We are very happy to be able to move forward as a local, as an international union and support the cancer presumption. But this isn’t about us. This is about Tina and Tina’s family and this is about us all remembering Mo for the person he was, the person who sacrificed 28 years for the city of Salem. That’s what this is about.”
He also thanked the hundreds of firefighters and other supporters who came to Monday’s Salem City Council meeting.
“I can’t thank the people who stood up enough,” said Brozovich. “We’ve received support from over 250 firefighters statewide today. We had people from the Senate, U.S. Congress, all the way down to local representatives, business people speak out, offer letters of support, contact city councilors, the mayor. Hopefully we can start to rebuild that at some point, but again this is not about us, this is about Mo and Tina and her getting what she rightfully deserved.
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