Hobart Fire Commission agrees to not demote firefighter but place him on suspension

2012-12-11T23:00:00Z 2013-01-22T14:54:03Z Hobart Fire Commission agrees to not demote firefighter but place him on suspensionBy Deborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | Hobart Fire Department Lt. Mark Slonaker will retain his rank but he will receive a five-day suspension and be on probation, the Fire Commission ruled Tuesday.

The commission ruling followed more than three hours of deliberation behind closed doors.

"It was a tough decision," commission member Lt. Louis Donsbach said.

Neither Slonaker nor Fire Chief Brian Taylor commented following the ruling.

The commission agreed on three of five charges filed against Slonaker and disagreed on two of the charges.

Central to Slonaker disciplining was the fact that, as a firefighter, he is not allowed to gossip, berate or discredit the department or other firefighters which commissioner members said he did in a conversation at a Hobart barber shop.

Taylor, at last month's three-hour disciplinary hearing for Slonaker, said Slonaker asked for the hearing to appeal disciplinary action that would reset his rank from being demoted from lieutenant to firefighter.

The demotion was recommended because it was alleged Slonaker publicly discredited other firefighters and the department, Taylor said.

Mike Deppe, the attorney for Slonaker, maintained at the hearing that  the chief's actions are retaliation for Slonaker's whistleblower activities that exposed a sex scandal allegedly cover up by the chief.

Last month barber shop operator Shelly Gilliana testified she contacted Fire Chief Brian Taylor because, she said, of disparaging comments she overheard  Slonaker had made 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.

Papka, during the testimony, said he didn't have sex in Fire House No. 2 but that a woman who came to the station to have a car seat check disrobed and attempted to seduce him.

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