Attorney for disciplined Hobart firefighter recommends appeal

2012-12-12T20:15:00Z 2013-01-22T14:52:17Z Attorney for disciplined Hobart firefighter recommends appealDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | The attorney for disciplined Hobart firefighter Lt. Mark Slonaker will recommend he file an appeal.

"I'll take this as far as we can go, to the United States Supreme Court if needed. How can you take away the constitutional rights of an employee?" attorney Michael Deppe asked Wednesday.

The Hobart Fire Commission on Tuesday agreed that Slonaker can retain his rank but he will receive a five-day suspension and be a probationary lieutenant for one year.

The commission ruling followed more than three hours of deliberation behind closed doors on charges leveled by Fire Chief Brian Taylor.

Those charges included a report made to Taylor by a Hobart barber shop operator, a former girlfriend of Slonaker, that Slonaker had made disparaging comments about two firefighters.

City Attorney Anthony DeBonis, who didn't attend Tuesday's meeting, said he was glad the commission found that rules had been violated as the chief alleged.

"I have no argument with the commission's sanction," DeBonis said.

The commission found Slonaker guilty on three of five charges filed against him and not guilty on two of the charges.

Central to the Slonaker disciplining was the fact that, as a firefighter, he is not allowed to gossip, berate or discredit the department or other firefighters, the commission said.

In its ruling, the commission found Slonaker guilty of that charge through the conversation he reportedly had with a barber shop operator while getting his hair cut in Hobart.

Last month, barber shop operator Shelly Gilliana testified she contacted Taylor because of disparaging comments she overheard  Slonaker make about fellow firefighters.

Those comments allegedly included Slonaker telling her about a sexual encounter between Lt. John Papka and a woman at Fire House 2 and unflattering remarks about the job performance of firefighter Patti Brazil.

Deppe called the complaint made by Gilliana, a former girlfriend of Slonaker, "a complaint made by a lover scorned." 

"How can someone receive more punishment for talking about what somebody did wrong than the person who did wrong?" Deppe said.

Papka, who testified he did not have a sexual encounter at the fire house, was disciplined for his actions, Taylor said at last month's disciplinary hearing.

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