Mo. Captain Suspended for Interview about Bullet-Proof Vests

July 22--The Monarch Fire Protection District has suspended a fire captain for two days without pay for speaking to the media about a board plan buy bullet-proof vests for protection.

The firefighters union, the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, said the decision was made Thursday.

Board secretary Jane Cunningham confirmed the decision and said it was unanimous. She declined to comment further about the matter, saying it was a personnel issue.

Gelven spoke to the Post-Dispatch and other media outlets in April about the vest controversy. The board planned to use them to line a half-wall that sits in front of a desk board members use at meetings.

The firefighters union said it plans to file a grievance over the Gelven's punishment. Brad Peters, vice president of the local, said the First Amendment rights of Gelven were violated. Peters said Gelven was off-duty when he answered reporters' questions about a matter of public interest.

"We believe the board's decision to reprimand the captain is unjustifiable," Peters said.

This is the latest of several controversies in the district, most centering on disagreements between the union and board.

Markia A. Holt is an intern at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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