Like the volunteer firefighter who lost his job as a truck driver while on a storm response, this is another interesting one from Sandy that is making headlines in New Jersey. Four volunteer firefighters from Manville, New Jersey were suspended because, on their own, they went to Toms River, the hometown of one of the firefighters, to assist in the aftermath of the hurricane. While the punishment for three of the four has been reduced, the fourth, Gary Barras, has been in a very public battle over this issue.
Manville officials are making the case that Barras misrepresented himself, got into a heated battle with his chief and violated established protocols for this type of response.
Barras argues that he as doing the right thing. Manville officials also believe they are doing the right thing, but understand the public relations problem that has resulted from appearing to punish someone for doing a good deed. Also, social media has played a role in this case with Barras’ picture on Facebook in Toms River becoming part of the evidence.
So what do you think?
All but one of the four North End Volunteer Fire Co. firefighters who were suspended after going to shore to help with Sandy relief were reinstated Thursday night, according to Manville Mayor Angelo Corradino Friday morning.The firefighters were originally suspended for not following orders and for misrepresenting themselves upon their return, Corradino said. But firefighter Gary Barras became “almost combative and unruly, and that’s why he was dismissed,” the mayor said.Barras — the firefighter who spearheaded the trip to help out East Dover Fire Co., in Toms River, his hometown — had permission from Capt. Joe Barilla to leave town, but he did not have permission to bring three others with him, according to Manville Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Otrimski.The firefighters were in violation of the Fire Service Resource Emergency Deployment Act of 2003, Corradino said, which could subject Manville up to a $10,000 fine.
Gary Barras, a former volunteer firefighter, claims his superiors in Manville suspended him for going to Toms River to help residents down the Jersey Shore hit hard by Sandy.
“When he came back, the way he handled the situation misrepresented the truth and almost getting into a fight with the chief,” Mayor Angelo Corradino said.
Fire officials said Barras was told he could go and help hurricane victims, but he was not allowed to represent the Manville Fire Department.
Then they said they saw a Facebook picture of Barras wearing Manville bunker gear in front of a Toms River fire truck, expensive bunker gear that can cost close to $3,000.
The disciplinary action, it was revealed Friday, was more than a local matter, involving officials as high up as the state Department of Community Affairs. The agency’s Northwest Regional Fire Coordinator Timothy Weiss emailed Somerset officials Nov. 4 to inform them that Manville volunteers had self-deployed to Ocean County.
The Manville volunteers had reportedly been spotted by Ocean County Fire Coordinator Brian Gabriel, who told them to leave because they had not been deployed through the proper channels.
Manville officials, however, also dialed back the punishments. Two firefighters who had been suspended for six months were reinstated on probation. Another firefighter who had resigned is welcome to rejoin, officials said. But Barras is likely to remain a man without a fire station.