Akron Fire Lieutenants' Discipline Kept Light

An Akron fire lieutenant recently disciplined for visiting pornographic Web sites on city time with city computers and a stolen password got something else from the city -- four hours of overtime the same week he was serving his part of his two-day suspension without pay.

Another lieutenant was disciplined at the same time after he was turned in by fellow medics who accused him of inappropriately touching a female patient. That firefighter received the same two-day suspension.

The handling of the suspensions -- both considerably less than city officials first recommended -- have caused some dissension within the department. But most of the officers who spoke with the Beacon Journal asked not to be named because they fear reprisals.

Both disciplined lieutenants have served in the department since the 1970s and make $27.07 per hour.

Deputy mayor for labor relations, James Masturzo, initially recommended both officers be suspended from all shifts for a month.

But Fire Chief Charles R. Gladman reduced the punishments. He said he was following the recommendations of the department's discipline committee.

That discipline committee confronted Lt. Jibril Abdullah on Feb. 2 with evidence that he'd used city computers to view porn.

The 28-year veteran of the department could not be reached for comment.

But according to city records, Abdullah admitted that he had asked another firefighter authorized to access the Internet for his logon and password and then later used that information to visit pornographic Web sites.

Abdullah, 54, ''stated he (was) guilty of the charges, and that he has an addiction to pornography which he has been struggling with for the last few years,'' according to the records. ''He stated that this has become a spiritual problem for him, and he has attempted to utilize prayer in an attempt to stop.''

The lieutenant said he was ''glad'' he was caught and that he was ''willing to get help,'' records say.

By the time the matter left the chief's hands, the 30 days Masturzo had initially recommended -- which would have covered about 10 24-hour shifts -- had become just two shifts.

Masturzo said he initially recommended the 30 days because that's what another city employee who had been caught accessing pornography on city computers received.

That employee had been using city computers for an extended period of time.

''It was almost an every day event,'' said Masturzo, who couldn't recall who the employee was.

However, Masturzo said that after learning more facts, he agreed with the chief on the lighter punishment.

He said Abdullah's porn viewing wasn't as extensive and didn't warrant the same suspension.

''They were very isolated incidents,'' Masturzo said of Abdullah's online indiscretions.

The president of the union that represents firefighters doesn't remember it that way.

Phil Gauer, president of Akron Firefighters Local 330, was present when the evidence was given to Abdullah for his review.

He said Abdullah was shown three stacks of paper -- about a half-inch thick each -- listing the Web sites he'd visited using the city's networked computers at three different fire stations.

''I didn't sit there and count them, but there were more than one or two incidents, that's for sure,'' Gauer said. ''It was at least three different days if it was three different stations.''

Abdullah's reduced suspension was lightened even more when he received four hours of overtime during the same week he was serving half the suspension.

Gladman said payroll records show that Abdullah received four hours of overtime the day before the first 24-hour suspension in late March. He completed the second 24-hour suspension the following week.

Gladman said the overtime was for mandatory paramedic training, which firefighters must accumulate over the year.

''He's entitled to that by union contract,'' Gladman said.

Firefighters work a 24-hour day once every three days and are paid for 40 hours of work a week, so the initial recommendation would have resulted in the loss of 160 hours of pay over four weeks. Instead, Abdullah lost 40 hours of pay and picked up four overtime hours -- paid at time and a half or six hours.

Gauer said he and other union officers fielded several complaints when Abdullah got the overtime.

''It wasn't unreasonable to offer overtime at that point. It was just strange that they would offer it to a guy on suspension,'' Gauer said. ''It's at the chief's discretion.''

At the same time that Masturzo was considering what Abdullah's punishment should be, he also had to make a recommendation about Lt. Donald Winnen, who had been accused by three fellow firefighters of inappropriately touching a patient.

The incident happened in late December in the Sterling Jewelers office complex on Ghent Road.

Medics responded to a call involving a woman who needed medical attention. They examined her, found nothing wrong and were ready to leave when Winnen initiated his own exam.

''He came back, and he started almost doing his own personal examination of her,'' Masturzo said. ''There was no need to touch this woman any further.''

Masturzo said the exam was not sexual in nature, and the woman never filed a complaint.

However, three other medics at the scene reported that the exam was inappropriate.

Winnen said Friday that the woman had not been properly examined by the other medics.

''They did a partial examination, and I completed the examination for them,'' Winnen said. ''Apparently they took that as embarrassment.''

He reiterated that the woman not only did not file a complaint, she thanked him for his care.

''The woman was highly distressed,'' Winnen said. ''When we got through with the call, she thanked me personally for being so kind and considerate.''

Winnen was confronted with the allegations at a Jan. 31 fire administration meeting.

The report of that meeting concluded:

''The committee feels that (Winnen) does not understand right from wrong in his dealings with patients regarding his uninvited touching of them.''

Masturzo also recommended 30 days for Winnen, but Gladman made it two work days as well -- again on the committee's recommendation.

Winnen, who is 58, has been in the department for 33 years. He initially appealed the discipline, but then withdrew it.

''I still feel that any actions I did were within fire department rules and my sphere of technical ability as an Emergency Medical Technician,'' he said.

Gladman, who joined the department in 1973 and was named chief in 1997, said that Abdullah and Winnen have served the city honorably for many years and received appropriate discipline.

''It's not like these guys were murderers,'' Gladman said. ''We tried to stop some behavior before it led to someone getting into worse trouble.''