Lehigh fire commissioners voted Tuesday to reprimand Chief James Cardoza for two issues that have brought the district under scrutiny in recent weeks.
Commissioners faulted Cardoza with not updating them on the status of firefighter Carl Edward Temple when he suggested Temple for promotion to lieutenant last month. Temple was arrested last year in Fort Myers and pleaded no contest to exposure of sexual organs.
The Lehigh Acres Fire Control and Rescue District Board of Commissioners also reprimanded Cardoza, at his own recommendation, for allowing safety certification on the district's new $847,000 ladder truck to lapse.
Cardoza told the board at its contentious four-hour meeting that he was ultimately responsible for the lapse, as he had not properly indicated who was supposed to keep the certification updated to his subordinates.
Commissioners told Cardoza he should have kept them updated on Temple's case. Had they known Temple, 39, had pleaded to the charge and been sentenced to six months probation in September, they would have discussed disciplinary action then.
"In my department, I would have been fired," said commissioner Stephen Haas, who works as a firefighter in North Fort Myers.
Commissioner Jeff Berndt said Cardoza had cast a bad light on the district and the commissioners by deciding to promote Temple to the lieutenant position, at a salary of nearly $70,000.
"I don't like being lumped in with that kind of bad judgement," Berndt said.
Cardoza has defended the promotion saying that the incident was a misdemeanor that occurred outside the fire district's boundaries and while Temple was off duty and out of uniform.
Cardoza brought Temple and several other firefighters up for promotion at the board's February meeting. No mention was made of the arrest or following sentence.
Temple and the others were sworn in, though the board never voted to approve the promotions.
Chairman Bruce Boyd Jr. said voting on the promotions had been standard in the past, but must have been overlooked in the interest of moving the meeting forward quickly.
The board voted Tuesday to promote the other firefighters but not Temple. Temple's promotion still stands, commissioner Joel Guzman said, but will be recorded as an action by Cardoza and not the board.
The board also considered demoting Temple back to his previous position, firefighter/paramedic field trainer, but declined to, fearing that any kind of punishment coming so long after the incident might invite legal trouble.
Members of the community expressed their concern over the promotion at the board's meeting.
Lehigh resident Harold Doidge said he would have trouble showing respect for Temple as Temple's subordinate.
"There is no way I would call this man sir," Doidge said.
Such complaints were outnumbered during the meeting's public comment periods, however, by words of support for Temple by fellow firefighters, who said the incident was out of character with the man they knew.
"He's done an exemplary job," Battalion Chief John Wayne said of Temple, who is a 20-year veteran of the district.
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03-21-2005, 12:21 PM #1
Lehigh Fla--Fire Chief Reprimanded09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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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.
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