Two Florida Firefighters Reinstated; Originally Accused Of Hazing

Two Coral Springs firefighters who were fired last year after being accused of tying up female firefighter Krystyna Krakowski in an apparent hazing incident will be back on the job this weekend.

Justin Parrinello, 27, a paramedic/firefighter, and Chris Meyer, 31, an EMT/firefighter, were reinstated after an arbitrator decided termination was too severe a punishment, records show. The two are being returned to full seniority with their original dates of hire unchanged, according to an April 19 ruling by arbitrator Robert B. Hoffman. Both will return to work on Saturday, the order states.

case was heard by the arbitrator after six firefighters filed a grievance with the city protesting the punishment. Four other firefighters received suspensions or demotions in connection with the incident. Their discipline was unchanged.

"They are happy that they got their jobs back and that they can get on with their lives," said Coral Springs Firefighter Brian Powell, district vice president of the Metro Broward Professional Firefighters Local 3080. "It's unfortunate the way the whole thing played out."

Parrinello and Meyer declined interviews.

"This order is binding. No matter how I feel, I have to take them back," said Coral Springs City Manager Michael Levinson. "But there is no back pay here. They were suspended 11 months without back pay, and they are not getting it back."

The two were among six Coral Springs firefighters who were disciplined for their roles in the highly publicized February 2003 hazing of Krakowski, then a 28-year-old probationary firefighter who was roused from her sleep in the bunkroom of fire station No. 71 by five male co-workers, four of them wearing hooded masks.

Krakowski, who now works for the Palm Beach Gardens Fire Department, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. She resigned her job with Coral Springs in January.

According to city records, the firefighters threw a blanket over Krakowski's head, bound her ankles with plastic handcuffs and tried binding her wrists. The group fled the fire station at 1800 NW 41st St. when Krakowski struggled.

An on-duty Parrinello left his zone without notifying dispatch to participate in the hazing, during which he wore a hood, according to city documents. A ski mask-clad Meyer bound Krakowski's ankles with plastic handcuffs, records show.

The arbitrator did not revise the disciplinary measures against Michael Matz, 34, and John Agostinelli, 36, both lieutenants who were demoted to the ranks of firefighter/paramedic and suspended without pay for six shifts. Agostinelli, however, was promoted back to lieutenant in June.

Firefighter/paramedic Dan Doherty, 30, and firefighter/EMT Damon France, 30, were suspended without pay for four shifts for their roles in the incident. Their punishment also was unchanged.

Thomas DiBernardo, president of the Metro Broward Professional Firefighters Local 3080, said the arbitrator seemed to agree such pranks are often a routine part of fire department culture.

"The culture of the fire service is to induct people. It's teamwork and camaraderie, and this was a method to induct people," DiBernardo said.