A San Francisco carpenter has been fired for doing what he thought was the right thing. He freed a young raccoon that had been caught in a trap at his job site.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports Todd Sutton was working on part of a $610 million renovation project at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in February when he came to work one morning and discovered the animal in the trap.
Webcor, the company overseeing the project, had reportedly called in animal control specialists to trap the raccoons at the site because the animals were causing damage.
Sutton knew that the trapped raccoons would be hauled off and euthanized so he decided to act.
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“I was just doing what I thought was right,” Sutton said. “He was just a little baby. I said, 'I’m not going to let this happen. I’m going to do what is necessary for this raccoon.’”
He picked up the trap and put it in the back of his truck and said he planned to release the animal later after consulting with the city’s animal control department.
Later that afternoon he got a call from his boss at RFJ Meiswinkel Co. who said Webcor was concerned that Sutton had removed a trapped animal from the job site and had asked that the carpenter be taken off the job.
“When they accused me, I didn’t deny it,” Sutton said. “I didn’t think I’d really get in trouble. I said, 'Are you really going to let me off the job?’”
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Sutton said his boss decided not only to remove from him the site but to fire him completely. He said he was shocked and he hadn’t even released the animal yet.
“The raccoon was out safely in the truck,” he said. “He was covered up. I was trying to keep him in the dark, because you know, he’s a nocturnal animal — he was just chillin’.”
He later released the animal, near where it was trapped, according to the suggestions he received from city officials. He said he returned the empty trap to the job site.
A Webcor vice president, Matt Rossie, said the company was more concerned about Sutton taking property from the job site than his decision to free a trapped animal.
“We were concerned he had taken something that didn’t belong to him and left the job site,” Rossie said. “We asked Mr. Sutton to go home for the day, and that for him to remove any property from the job site is basically theft and it wasn’t going to be tolerated.”
Sutton told KNTV News he has found another job, but it doesn’t pay as well.
He has also hired Steve Jaffe as his attorney and is considering a lawsuit.
Jaffe told KNTV that Sutton may well have had his First Amendment rights violated.
"When someone makes a personal moral statement, which didn’t harm anyone, I do think that is a protected act," Jaffe said.
The lawsuit could include attorney fees, emotional distress and punitive damages, the attorney said.
Sutton told the Chronicle that, even though he is making less money, he is sure he did what was right.
“I wouldn’t change it. I’d do the same thing again,” he said. “This whole thing was just nuts.”
Representatives from RFJ Meiswinkel could not be reached for comment, according to both the Chronicle and KNTV.
Photo Credit: WikiCommons, Todd Sutton via San Francisco Chronicle