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Chambersburg Civil Service Commission upholds firefighter's suspension

Shift Capt. Patrick R. Martin's suspension tied to letter urging union members to refrain from volunteer firefighting

June 10, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH | waynesboro@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The Chambersburg Civil Service Commission in late May upheld the suspension of a paid firefighter accused of engaging in conduct “unbecoming of an officer,” according to a copy of the commission’s order.

Shift Capt. Patrick R. Martin had appealed his 240-hour suspension, but the three-member commission denied the appeal in an order dated May 25.

Martin’s suspension was tied to an October 2011 letter in which, as president of International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1813, he asked members to refrain from providing volunteer firefighting services in the borough of Chambersburg. The letter referenced the borough’s intentions of reducing the number of its department’s salaried firefighters.

IAFF Local 1813, Martin and union Vice President Scott McNew are named as defendants in a lawsuit filed by the borough of Chambersburg.

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Martin did not return a voicemail regarding the civil service commission’s findings. He previously declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The municipality won an injunction in mid-May for the union and its leaders “to cease and desist from encouraging, sanctioning and supporting a secondary boycott of volunteer fire services in the Chambersburg Fire Department.”

The borough council held two hearings and found that Martin “engaged in conduct unbecoming an officer and neglect of an official duty” by sending the letter to IAFF members who volunteered for the Chambersburg Fire Department. It suspended him for 240 hours.

Martin appealed the suspension.

The civil service commission held a hearing Feb. 27 and received legal documents afterward. Based on those, it rejected the appeal.

In an order, the civil service commission wrote “encouraging volunteers not to assist the borough fire department endangered public safety and was conduct unbecoming an officer.”

“Appellant had a duty to encourage volunteer participation in fire department duties,” the order states.

The letter “caused volunteers to be disgruntled, have to make tough personal decisions and put undue stress on them,” the order states.

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