Mass. Firefighter Demoted Following Facebook Photo

July 31--FALMOUTH -- A town firefighter has been demoted after an internal investigation into photos posted on his Facebook account that purportedly showed him drinking alcohol while in a vehicle.

Former Deputy Fire Chief Michael Small is now an acting lieutenant, Fire Chief Mark Sullivan confirmed Tuesday. Small had been on paid administrative leave since June.

Sullivan would not elaborate on the "acting" designation of Small's new rank. Town Manager Julian Suso also did not clarify, other than to say Small's demotion "may not be a permanent one." The rank change means the investigation into the incident is complete, Suso said.

Sullivan said Capt. Greg Clements will be an acting deputy chief to fill the void left by Small's demotion.

The photo on Small's Facebook page was deleted after a report on the incident was published in the Falmouth Enterprise. According to the Enterprise, the photograph showed Small behind the wheel of a car with an open beer bottle in his hand. The caption for the photo read, in part, "You can't drink roadies on a motorcycle anyway, but you can in Nana's borrowed 1985 Camry!!!"

Possessing an open container behind the wheel of a car that is on a public roadway, even if that vehicle is not moving, is a criminal infraction. But the behavior would likely have to be observed by a police officer, Falmouth police Lt. Brian Reid told the Times in June, for a criminal charge to be levied.

Suso said town leaders continue to discuss the merits of adopting a policy on social media use. Those talks preceded Small's suspension, and Suso said the event isn't spurring any immediate changes.

Copyright 2013 - Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

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