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Brad,

What is the legal status of a suspension for doing your job as an officer according to policy and not being allowed to tell your side of the story until after the charges and verdict have been rendered against you. Then given the the oportunity to explain your side and told nothing changes because a decision has already been made. If you are found innocent, you have already served a suspension for doing nothing wrong. My department has a policy of suspending members without investigating, meaning you are guilty and have to prove you are innocent. When politics come into play, you are always guilty no matter how innocent you are. Would realy like to explain in depth but on the forum where others from my department could see would be political suicide!

Any Help is appreaciated

Stay Safe !! Dennis

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Replies to This Discussion

Lets start with a few questions. Are you a volunteer or career firefighter? Second, what state? I find that frequently, when I defend volunteer firefighters and am forced to sue to reverse a suspension, that the result is a cleared record. The time served suspended has already occurred, but the record will at least be cleared.

New York State, for example, requires certain municipal entities to provide a hearing with substantial due process to all volunteers. The incorporated fire company, however, can do almost anything against a volunteer so long as it follows the process as outlined in the bylaws, even if the process provides little protection. However, the courts have always held that the punishment must fit the crime.

I am always happy to receive an email if you want.
Hello Brad,

First ,Thank you for listening! I am a volunteer fire fighter in the state of NJ, County of Monmouth. I have served in the service for 35 years, 26 in the Department I presently serve. I have served through the ranks to Dept. Chief and presently serve as Captain in an Engine co. for 15 yrs. I am a voting member of our Board of fire officers at which this situation occurred.

Prior to a board meeting it was brought to the attention of the President that a company was going to create a scene because their Chief was caught with alcohol on his breath at a fire scene and was held accountable for it. I was the officer who held him accountable. The meeting progressed to a point of out of control and the president would not respond to all the foul language and heckling while another member was at the podium. This meeting is a public meeting. I stood and addressed a member for his conduct by stating, "quote" as an officer of this fire department I am telling you to curb your language in a public forum and was told what the Fu#k you going to do about it, I stated what I quoted again and he stood raising his hands and stated the same, what are you going to do about it with another of his company members coming to his side. I was suspended by the Dept Chief for trying to control a bad situation! A special hearing was put together with a date that the mediator who would run this meeting ultimately would change cause he could not make it. The date it was changed to I could not make but they held the meeting anyway. It took 15 days to receive a certified letter for the suspension, 30+ days for charges, I was not given an opportunity to defend myself until after a decision was rendered for a 60 day suspension . The mediator for the hearing is a past chief and still a member of the company for the chief I held accountable and the member I addressed at the Board meeting. After explaining the violated my rights by not allowing me to defend myself they gave me the opportunity and when done I was told nothing changes the decision was made and nothing will change. So much for ones rights and due process. I tried to have an outside committee over see the hearing and it would not be addressed. I received 60 days and they will finally vote on it monday night, 10-20-08 at a regular meeting not a special meeting according to the Dept By-Laws.

Respectfully,

Captain Dennis E. Sampson
Firefighter / EMT
Station 29-4 ENGINE 2977
Matawan, NJ
Hello Brad,

Thank you for your return e-mail and words that are encouraging if it were a real court, but tonight my fate was removal from the fire department. I have a right to appeal which I will but can state it will not change anything. When you do your job in my dept. it goes against the club mentality, especially having a few and going to calls, just like the way this entire situation started. I have $4,500 in LOSAP I lose because I do not havre 5 yrs vested from when the program started. It was purely a conspiracy by one company who garnered the votes of members and companies who do not respond to calls. I joined the fire service in 1973 and lived my life around it. It truly is a shame to end it like this!

Respectfully,

Captain Dennis E. Sampson
Firefighter / EMT
Station 29-4 ENGINE 2977
Matawan, NJ
So what do you do when a company has a clearly printed black and white policy in their by laws as far as a process to suspension starting at pressing charges all the way up to an administrative hearing and apeal and they clearly breach thier by laws and just suspend you?
In NYS you would have the right to what is called an "Article 78" proceeding, charging that the company breached its required due process granted in the bylaws. Fairly easy case. The court would then order the company to comply with its bylaws if it tries to suspend the individual. Sometimes the process takes a few months and the suspension is over. Most volunteers do not want to spend the funds to fight it (which can cost up to $5,000 with attorneys fees and court costs). Members should be very proactive with their bylaws making sure that the bylaws protect the members while permitting discipline for just cause.
Thanks for the info Brad but after reading the New York State laws for fire departments Ive found out theres much more that can be done. Thanks!
Every firefighter who has some vested right as a quasi public employee may be entitle to due process before termination--whether a paid or volunteer firefighter. However, due process may simply mean the ability to tell your side of the story after you have been confronted with the charges. You may have clais in federal or state court, but unfortunately, from a practical standpoiint, many volunteers would be no better off if they won and returned to the FD. I am not a fan of voting in this matter, and believe that thorough investigations should be conducted by indepoendent third parties. Fire organizatons should lobby to make sure state laws provide due process mechanisms before firefighters can be terminated. We owe that to ourselves. Chip Comstock

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