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  1. #1
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    Default Discipline did not go far enough, says chief

    Penalties too light, say fire officials

    Fire Chief J.J. Morrison's punishment of three firefighters was severe, but didn't go far enough, say some on the district fire board.

    By ROBERT KING
    Times Staff Writer

    © St. Petersburg Times
    December 21, 2002
    SPRING HILL, FL -- The suspensions given Thursday to three Spring Hill firefighters were some of the most severe disciplinary penalties in the fire district's 28-year history. Yet some people are convinced they were not harsh enough.
    Lt. John Ferriero was suspended without pay for four weeks. Firefighters Ed Falk and Tom White were suspended without pay for two weeks. All three were placed on probation for a year. Each must forfeit vacation and sick leave hours. Other penalties, including requirements for counseling, were levied as well.
    Handed down Thursday by Fire Chief J.J. Morrison, the punishments were a response to a sex scandal involving three married firefighters, a young woman and a night of hard drinking at a firefighters convention near Orlando.
    The woman said the men raped her. The men said she was a willing participant in a variety of sex acts. Seminole County authorities found insufficient evidence for criminal charges.
    The fire district ruled that the firefighters broke its rules against sexual misconduct and immoral behavior. Beyond that, Morrison said, the behavior had tarnished the department's reputation.
    Some of Morrison's bosses -- members of the district fire board -- question whether he went far enough. Darryl Hamilton said Friday that the punishments were, at first glance, "a little light." Richard Martin said they simply weren't enough. He had not counted out the possibility of requesting a special meeting to overrule Morrison's decision.
    "I haven't ruled out pursuing termination," he said.
    Martin said that, after consulting with fire board attorney Andrew Salzman, he believes that such an option -- to enact a harsher punishment -- would be open to the board. Other officials weren't clear on that point Friday. Salzman did not return calls.
    Only fire Commissioner Jeffrey Hollander expressed support for Morrison's actions, which he described as "very prudent" and "highly thought out."
    "I believe he took the violations extremely seriously," Hollander said.
    The other two commissioners, Tommy Marasciullo and Gene Panozzo, were not available for comment.
    The 32-year-old Spring Hill woman at the heart of the incident said the punishments were a joke.
    "Kids in high school get suspended longer for smoking pot on campus," said the woman, whose name is being withheld by the Times because of the nature of the case.
    Under the contract that the fire district has with the firefighters union, the three men have seven days to file a grievance that would, in essence, appeal the severity of their punishments.
    But union president Mike Rampino said Friday that two of the men -- Ferriero and White -- would accept their punishment without appealing to the fire board. Rampino said he had not been able to speak with Falk.
    White and Falk would not discuss their punishments Friday with the Times. Ferriero could not be reached for comment.
    All three men had been on paid leave since Aug. 19 as the case was investigated. On Monday, they will begin serving their unpaid suspensions.
    For Falk, the two weeks off will cost nearly $1,500. For White, the cost of two weeks will be about $1,300. For Ferriero, the highest ranked of the three, the four weeks without pay will cost about $3,700.
    Fire district policy says that discipline should be more corrective than punitive, as Morrison noted when he announced the punishments Thursday. Even so, Morrison said Friday that he considered the punishments to be as severe as they could be, short of firing the men.
    "To my knowledge, there has never been discipline of this severity issued in this department," said Morrison, who has been with the fire district for 17 years.


  2. #2
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    If these guys were not charged with anything by the law, then how can the fire department impose such punishment? I'm sure they didn't confess or they would be arrested. I'd hate to think that one could be penalized or fired because of "sexual acts" that we may perform in private. If they were specifically representing a department and the department was paying all their expenses and they were being paid their salaries while they were there, and they were supposed to be following preset guidelines or rules, then perhaps the department has a point. But I think it's dangerous to start legislating our views of what's moral and what's not on people's private lives. What one person finds immoral another might consider normal sex.

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber jaybird210's Avatar
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    I think I agree with Th. This reminds me of the Lt. who struck and killed a pedestrian earlier-- I think it was this month. We have been handed this "hero" mantle that most of us didn't want, and are uncomfortable with, and now there is a higher price to be paid. We are held to a different standard than others.

    What if these guys had been mid-level bank managers? Or worked in a hardware store? We never would've heard of this. Would bankers or clerks had been suspended without pay? If there wasn't enough evidence to formally charge the men, it sounds like a case of he-said-she-said. Everybody had a little too much to drink, and what sounded like a good idea at the time feels like rape in the morning. I'm not trying to defend boorish behavior, but I wonder how someone can be punished just because there was an accusation.
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  4. #4
    Forum Member Smoke20286's Avatar
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    Originally posted by ThNozzleman
    If these guys were not charged with anything by the law, then how can the fire department impose such punishment? I'm sure they didn't confess or they would be arrested. I'd hate to think that one could be penalized or fired because of "sexual acts" that we may perform in private. If they were specifically representing a department and the department was paying all their expenses and they were being paid their salaries while they were there, and they were supposed to be following preset guidelines or rules, then perhaps the department has a point. But I think it's dangerous to start legislating our views of what's moral and what's not on people's private lives. What one person finds immoral another might consider normal sex.
    Under the ubiquitous catch all "conduct unbecoming" Whenever managment cant find anything else to punish firefighters with,they trot out that old dog.Fortunatly, once the union grieves the punishment it will probably be reduced, or expunged.

  5. #5
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    The article states:
    -------------------
    "the punishments were a response to a sex scandal involving three married firefighters, a young woman and a night of hard drinking at a firefighters convention near Orlando"
    -------------------
    and
    -------------------
    "The fire district ruled that the firefighters broke its rules against sexual misconduct and immoral behavior. Beyond that, Morrison said, the behavior had tarnished the department's reputation."
    -------------------
    These guys may not have been charged with any criminal act, but these acts were carried out at a firefighting convention where they were representing their employer. I am a volunteer, so I have an unrelated profession. If I were at a convention, or training event representing my employer, and got caught in similar circumstances, I would most certainly be fired.

    Obviously, there are some governing by-laws in play here. The article doesn't specify who picked up the tab for the trip, but I would be willing to bet that they represented themselves by their dept. I don't think the powers that be could get away with any discipline if they were there completely on their own.

    I don't think this is the same as if they were punished for an incident in their personal lives. What you do in private, moral or not, is your and/or your family's business. But, in my opinion, "conduct unbecoming" applies here. I think they are lucky they still have a job.
    Dan LaRue
    Lieutenant
    Elkmont Volunteer Fire Dept.

    Your talents are a gift from God
    How you use them are your gift to God.

  6. #6
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    Default Higher standard

    "What if these guys had been mid-level bank managers? Or worked in a hardware store?"

    Get used to this. Yes, the public looks up to fire fighters more now than ever since 9/11, but the fact of the matter is that as public servants particularly if we are paid to do the job, we are expected to behave better than the bank manager or hardware store employee. Our job and the job of our fellow fire fighters requires the publics trust. This includes the trust of those who's sexual proclivity might be more bizarre than most as well as those who feel that any sex outside of marital bonds is wrong and sinful. Now you may not like that, but like any other act committed by a public servant, it sells copy. It's gonna be on the front page whether you like it or not. And even more reason why our behavior needs to be better than others, all the time.

    "If there wasn't enough evidence to formally charge the men, it sounds like a case of he-said-she-said."

    Maybe, but if you decided that you were going to behave in this manner there are going to be consequences for your decisions and behavior. Ethical behavior goes well beyond what is legal.

    "Everybody had a little too much to drink, and what sounded like a good idea at the time feels like rape in the morning."

    I'm sure the guys in Upper Darby felt the same way when the striper asked them to take her picture on the fire truck. Sure taking a picture of a woman on a fire truck wasn't rape but, how did it look to the community the next morning on the front page of the local newspaper. What seems like a good idea at the time, frequently turns out different. I suspect that these guys didn't think it through, if they thought about it at all. And whether we like it or not, it doesn't matter how much good we do for the past thirty years. As those who are given the publics trust, we as a group are judged by others on our most recent terrible, illegal, unethical act. (Choose what ever adjective you want).

    "But I think it's dangerous to start legislating our views of what's moral and what's not on people's private lives. What one person finds immoral another might consider normal sex."

    First it wasn't legislated. It has to do with what the department felt was proper behavior and misconduct. For any fire department to be able to conduct it's mission effectively, it must do so with the publics trust, all of them. It has an expectation of how you are going to behave in public and you agree to act accordingly when you sign on as either a volunteer or career fire fighter. If you break those rules there will be consequences for your actions. I agree with alwaysoncall on this one. They are lucky they still have their jobs.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Default So, when is it YOUR time?

    alwaysoncall:
    I, too, am a volunteer. I have been to countless conventions, seminars, etc., etc. over the years. I was our department's chief for 14 years. Like everyone else, I would attend the event in full department regalia for most of the day, exchanging ideas with fire service leaders and vendors. That was department time. BUT, at the end of the day, I would go to my room, shower, relax and prepare for the evening's festivities. I would wear absolutely nothing that would indicate I was firefighter, safety director or anything else. I am now JOE PUBLIC. Not because I planned on having sex with someone or because I planned on creating some sort of departmental scandal. It's because I have learned to "turn off the pager", so to speak. Many volunteers wear their stuff, day in and day out, giving people the idea that we are never off-duty. So when they see you coming out of the local watering hole, wearing an FD T-shirt, they complain. Well, I'm sorry, but I do have a life outside of the fire department and I determine when that is; whether it is at a trade show, seminar, conference or at home.
    If you don't want someone raising a ruckus, then leave the hat with 100 hat pins, the pager, portable radio, rescue knife, penlight, miracle scissors, 400 in 1 tool, FD shirt, jacket replete with badge and leather duty boots that you bought yourself at home, once in a while. You can have a sense of morality 24 hours a day, but you don't have to be on the clock 24 hours a day. Take some time for yourself. You'll last longer. You'll be less prone to making bad decisions, if you aren't stressed out from wearing the red cape all of the time!
    IMACOJ-because I live in the real world.

  8. #8
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    Chief, thanks again for your VoiceOfReason! Oh Wait! Strike That! Don't want you associated with that name.

    In all seriousness, I agree with your statement. I am also volunteer for 20+ and agree there is FD time and there is my time. Leave the "identification" home when you want to relax. I'm not saying anyone should go crazy, but it you wear the ID, you represent them and you should be held to a higher standard. Don't want to be at that level at the time...don't wear the ID.

    Somehow, I think the punishment these gentlemen are receving at their home and personal lives is worse than any the FD will give them.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

  9. #9
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    Chief reason, you pegged it. I too have a life outside the department. I think that if it gets appeald it will be thrown out. If there was no convition how could you go on with a punishment?
    Last edited by KyleWickman; 12-23-2002 at 05:13 PM.
    This space for rent

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Default Bonesy; that one will cost you a time out.

    You know; I never did see that whack job sign in under that avatar(VoiceOfReason). WT must have pulled the plug before I got to see it.
    ANYWAY: I use to work for a guy who was opposed to putting his company logo on anything, because his biggest fear was that he would be home watching the six o'clock news and it would show somebody wearing his company logo running from the bank they had just robbed.
    My point is that we have over saturated our communities-this nation with fire related shirts and what have you. Look at all of the FDNY stuff alone. We give shirts away; we raffle them. We get shirts from other departments. I trade shirts with other departments and have, oh, a couple hundred. It would be easy for me to claim that I belong to someone else's department, because I can talk the talk.
    I agree with those that believe this case got more attention because there were public servants involved. And Stan; it is absolutely politics at its dirtiest. No one will admit it, but then, they don't have to. There are people out there still riding the emotions of 9/11 and want to hero worship. Still, there are others who want to hero hate; bring them down to mere mortals! The newspaper is guilty of getting a story and selling newspapers, which in turns, add profit. That's all; I don't think that they are after the fire department; just the story. You don't want them to profit from a story that you think is unfair? Then don't buy their newspaper. Do what I do; read it off of the Internet!
    But I will say again; if you don't want to be held to a higher standard and closer scrutiny, then you have to set some rules by which to conduct your daily activities.
    I have been involved and have seen some pretty crazy stuff in 22 years in. And I can say with certainty that none of it will lessen my chances of being elected to a trustee's position nor will it have any influence on what I do.
    My opinions are just that-mine.

  11. #11
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Default Kyle: I almost forgot.

    Kyle:
    The fact that no charges were brought by the district attorney has nothing to do with the rules and regulations that govern the fire department. As long as the firefighters' rights to due process are not violated, you can have any number of silly little rules to follow. I am not saying that rules governing conduct are silly, but I think that conduct should be left to a wide window of interpretation. If we get too specific, many good people could be expelled for minor infractions and otherwise spotless careers ruined because of poor syntax in the document. There needs to be latitude-give and take-when it comes to conduct. Most reasonable people know what acceptable behavior is. Let common sense be the compass for these types of issues. That way, you keep politics out of it. The moral compass of an entire community is weighed and if you can't conduct yourself within those lines, then take it somewhere else.
    It's not hard. What plays well in NYC may not play well in Provo, UT.
    But you should know that going in. And of course, there is some behavior that is just not acceptable anywhere. That's not hard to figure out either.
    Rules are an entirely different beast. You agree to them when you are hired. Otherwise, you don't work there. There are consequences to violating the rules. You have the union rep if you have a different opinion. You have an appeal process for that reason. It all seems like a fair system to me.
    But if you want quick and painless, then let the chief decide.
    Now, who wants pie?
    Last edited by ChiefReason; 12-23-2002 at 12:28 PM.

  12. #12
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    "It has an expectation of how you are going to behave in public and you agree to act accordingly when you sign on as either a volunteer or career fire fighter."

    But I don't think they were in public. I believe they were in the privacy of their own rooms. I know we don't have all the details, but there have been many careers ruined because of some slut looking for revenge or to make a buck, or because someone spreads vicious rumors of someone's sexual preference. This case aside, I think that what we do in private with willing parties should be left private, or at least it shouldn't be dragged into the public eye for pious scrutiny. Of course, I live in the South where I can't buy a beer on Sunday because some people think their particular religious beliefs should take precedent over fairness and common sense, so I guess I'm a little biased on this situation. I know how quickly some arrogant jerks can ruin a fellow's life around here.

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Default Point of clarification, Th.

    Th;
    In your post, you referred to the complainant as a slut. By all accounts, she is "anonymous".
    As soon as she files her lawsuit against the city for mental anguish and emotional distress, she will be a profiteer or in street jargon; a whore. Let's not rush to judgment. And don't rule out the possibility that the National Organization for Women will get involved. You have a victim here with impeccable character, but lacked maturity to make the right choices. After all, she is only 32 years old. She had no idea that she controlled this incident right from the start. All's she had to do was say "no". She didn't have to drink; she didn't have to get drunk; she didn't have to go back to the room. She could have chosen to stay sober; she could have chosen to stay with someone else. Hell, she could have chosen to stay home and even chosen to date a single guy instead of a married man. But instead, according to her, she was intimidated into making the wrong choices. I mean, she IS only 32 years old and not responsible for her actions!
    She set out to destroy other peoples' lives. She did so with flying colors. Now, she needs to slither back into the desert and talk to a rock about how she got screwed....literally.
    IMACOJ and proud of it.

  14. #14
    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    Golly....This is the first time I have ever heard about people "hooking up" at a convention. Having said that, I think this Chief is trying to make himself feel better by this excessive punishment. He is putting HIS feelings ahead of what is right and just. Chief R... I'll take that piece of pie... Merry Christmas and give Tyke my love.

  15. #15
    Forum Member ThNozzleman's Avatar
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    Default

    Actually, I did not refer to this particular woman as a slut...I was just stating that there are vindictive people out there who are either out to hurt somebody or to make a buck off of some made up rape or sexual assault by a firefighter or police officer. As a former corrections officer, you wouldn't believe some of the crazy things people make up, just to hurt somebody for the hell of it, or as some kind of power trip. I never called this woman a slut...not yet, anyway.

  16. #16
    MembersZone Subscriber ChiefReason's Avatar
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    Default I coulda sworn!

    Th:
    I stand corrected. My apologies.
    I know what you were saying, though.
    Have a good one.

  17. #17
    District Chief distchief60b's Avatar
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    Post Same Story Different Thread

    This is related to the same story that I started months ago when this controversy started. Some of you may or may not have read it. But if you are interested in reading every article that was posted in the papers (with many varied views as well as some letters to the Editor) here is the link.

    http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...threadid=40190
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  18. #18
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    Default

    I use to work for a guy who was opposed to putting his company logo on anything, because his biggest fear was that he would be home watching the six o'clock news and it would show somebody wearing his company logo running from the bank they had just robbed.
    I know a guy who, upset with the high profile emergency service consulting group he was previously working with, gave all of his logo shirts to the local homeless winos.

    Everytime the bus came by to pick one of these unconscious/vomiting/smelly guys off a steaming grate, they got to see "Acme & Associates* - Emergency Service Solutions" logo displayed prominently. Nothing like community service dished up with a dose of nasty public image.

    *Name changed to protect the less-than-reputable.

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