Suspension extended for Halfway fire company's chief

Lawyer: Client given written notice he spoke to investigators without counsel being present

June 01, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE

HALFWAY -- The suspension of Halfway fire company's chief has been extended, the fire company's deputy chief said Tuesday.

Jeff Ringer, chief of the Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, Md. Inc., was placed on paid administrative leave for 30 days, effective May 3, and would have returned to work this week, Deputy Chief Ed Ernst said.

Ernst said company President James G. Kimble told the fire company's Executive Board last week that Ringer's suspension was being extended. The board, of which Ernst is a member, did not get to vote on the matter, he said. The board did vote on the initial 30-day suspension, Ernst said.

Kimble would not comment, referring questions to John H. Urner, the fire department's attorney.

The attorneys for both sides had different explanations of the action taken against Ringer.

Ringer's attorney, John Salvatore, has said Ringer was placed on administrative leave after speaking to Maryland State Police and IRS investigators who were looking into bingo and tip jar operations at the fire company.


On Tuesday, Urner said Ringer was suspended pending a determination of whether or not he breached advice of counsel. Urner said the administrative leave was another matter and he would not give the reason for it.

Salvatore said he considers the suspension and administrative leave the same thing.

Asked about the administrative leave, Salvatore said, "They gave him a written notice it's because he spoke to investigators without counsel being present."

The decision to extend Ringer's suspension was agreed upon by Urner and Salvatore, Urner said.

Salvatore said the extended suspension is a paid suspension and that Ringer is going stir crazy and would like to return to his duties.

"Some people read a lot into this," Salvatore said in May. "He's not being investigated as a suspect, he did not speak to investigators as a whistle blower, he's not a whistle blower. There's no smoking guns here."

Ringer said Salvatore notified him of the extension. He said to call Salvatore for further comment.

Urner said a hearing will be held on Ringer's suspension once the investigation is closed or by the end of June, whichever occurs first.

Salvatore said he considers the suspension indefinite.

"Kind of the idea was, let's see if this state police/IRS investigation concludes and, if it goes on for too long, then either side has the option of asking for a hearing to be held," Salvatore said.

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