Feb. 14--The Milwaukee Fire Department on Friday meted out punishments -- far lighter than recommended -- for the five remaining firefighters who were allegedly involved in vandalism at a north side engine house in September.
The department said two members who failed to properly prevent or report the vandalism will be demoted, serve unpaid suspensions of 30 days and must undergo remedial training.
The remaining three will serve unpaid suspensions of 30 days and also participate in remedial training.
The discipline handed out was far lighter than what the Milwaukee Fire Department's own Board of Investigation had recommended. Board members had recommended that the five employees -- their names were not released by the Fire Department on Friday -- be fired for failing to prevent or report extensive vandalism and disorder at Engine 32, 1551 N. 30th St.
The five have been on administrative suspension since October after an incident of vandalism was reported at Engine 32 during the Sept. 28 overnight shift -- the last shift before many of the firefighters in the engine house were to be transferred.
The department said Friday that "most, if not all, of the vandalism and disorder at the firehouse was committed by members who have since left the fire department."
At the Board of Investigation, the employees had received an opportunity to present their own evidence and arguments to the fire chief before he made a final decision.
Mike Tobin, executive director of the Fire and Police Commission, said Friday that the officers who were disciplined have 10 days beyond the day they are served with the suspensions to appeal. He said he wasn't sure the firefighters had been officially served with their suspensions.
Two other firefighters, Robert J. Rutley and David R. Krebsbach, were suspended last month for violating department rules on general conduct. They were suspended for five days without pay, with three of the days waived as long as they completed a program. They did not appeal the suspension to the Fire and Police Commission, and the commission approved of the discipline on Feb. 6.
The complaints filed by the fire chief with the commission indicated that Rutley admitted to placing pornography in the engine house, while Krebsbach admitted to placing inappropriate signage. Rutley and Krebsbach were among those to be transferred out of Engine 32, and they came into the engine house while off-duty on Sept. 28 to clear out their lockers, which is when those violations came to light, fire officials said Friday.
Two firefighters alleged to be involved in the vandalism retired before the department's investigation into the vandalism was completed.
Two probationary firefighters, Nathan Fager and Joseph Siegert, were fired before the internal investigation into Engine 32 began, though the two have said they were fired in connection with the vandalism incident and petitioned the Fire and Police Commission to be reinstated. Fire officials said Friday that the two probationary employees were fired for reasons unrelated to the internal investigation.
David Seager, president of the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Association Local 215, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.
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