Hobart fire lieutenant suspended 5 days for disparaging comments
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent December 11, 2012 11:00PM
Updated: December 12, 2012 11:43PM
HOBART — After more than three hours of deliberations, the Hobart Fire Commission on Tuesday gave Fire Lt. Mark Slonaker a five-day suspension and made him a probationary lieutenant for one year, having found him guilty on three of five charges leveled by Fire Chief Brian Taylor after reportedly making disparaging comments about two fellow firefighters.
Taylor had asked that Slonaker be demoted, saying Slonaker called one firefighter incompetent and talked publicly about another firefighter reportedly being caught with a naked woman in Fire Station 2, both while in a local barber shop. The former owner of the barber shop testified — during a hearing last month that included several witnesses and spanned four hours — that Slonaker made those remarks.
The three-member commission unanimously agreed Tuesday that Slonaker was not guilty of two charges: causing disrepute or causing harm to the department by his actions.
They unanimously agreed that Slonaker was guilty when he called one firefighter incompetent, of violating the rule that officers should conduct their personal and professional lives in such a manner as to avoid bringing discredit to the department and its members. They also unanimously agreed he was guilty of gossiping, berating and bringing discredit to the department or its members.
They were divided as to whether he was guilty of disobeying department regulations, with Commissioner Mike Pouch voting no.
Neither Slonaker nor Taylor would comment after the commission’s decision was announced, but Taylor did thank the commission members for their work on the matter.
Fire Lt. Louis Donsbach, one of the commissioners, said they didn’t take their responsibility lightly, hence the three-hour deliberation.
“This is an individual’s career. There were a lot of factors that had to be taken into consideration,” Donsbach said.
He said Slonaker was guilty on some charges because he spoke about matters in public that were privy only to firefighters.
“He was talking about priviliged information not intended for the public. We felt the First Amendment didn’t apply to him under the circumstances,” Donsbach said.
Donsbach said Taylor will decide when the suspension will take place.