Lance Johnson
Lance Johnson (Daily Times file photo)

FARMINGTON — Lance Johnson, a former firefighter with the Farmington Fire Department, could be reinstated after an arbitrator determined he was wrongfully terminated.

Johnson, who also owns Zebra's Sports Grill, declined to comment on Friday.

The former department engineer was accused of drunken driving in Durango, Colo., on Dec. 19, 2010. On March 1, 2011, Johnson pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of a crime, and the other charges against him were dismissed.

He was placed on paid administrative leave until early January 2011, when he was allowed to resume work under restricted duties. He was fired on April 1, 2011.

His termination was not a result of the city's drunken driving policy, according Daily Times archives.

Johnson filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, City Manager Rob Mayes and Farmington Fire Chief Terry Page in November 2012 but dropped the case in February 2013, according to court documents.

After dropping the case, Johnson's and the city's attorneys entered into arbitration, a process in which a dispute is settled outside of court.

"Today, July 19, 2013, City officials were notified that the arbitrator had issued a decision," Mayes said in a statement issued on Friday. "The arbitrator, Robert F. Curtis, found Mr. Johnson guilty of wrong-doing, but also found that the proven wrong-doing on Mr. Johnson's part did not rise to the level necessary to provide cause for termination under the City's regulations. He ordered that Mr. Johnson be reinstated to his position."

The arbitrator also determined that Johnson should not receive back pay, according to Mayes' statement.

"The period of time Mr. Johnson was not working pending disposition of his appeal would be considered an unpaid disciplinary suspension," the statement said.

Greg Yee covers government for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4606 and gyee@daily-times.com. Follow him @GYeeDT on Twitter.