City administrators demoted a Wapakoneta Fire Department captain alleging “dishonesty” and a “failure to follow directives.”
The firefighter claims he is being disciplined for his inability to recall the exact comments, times and dates he made comments to Wapakoneta City Council members as a private citizen and the fact his memory is faulty should not be constituted as “lying.”
Wapakoneta Safety-Service Director Bill Rains issued a letter on March 19 informing Tom Stinebaugh, who was hired Nov. 15, 1992, and promoted to captain Jan. 13, 2006, that he was demoted from a captain-emergency medical technician (EMT) to a firefighter-EMT effective immediately. After being placed on paid administrative leave Feb. 27, Stinebaugh was told to report to work at 7 a.m. March 25 as a firefighter.
In the letter, Rains said he reviewed all the evidence including items submitted by the city and the union as well as Stinebaugh’s personnel file. Rains conferred with Fire Chief Kendall Krites regarding a predisciplinary conference held with Stinebaugh on March 16.
“A captain in the fire department must be a role model to other employees, a leader to firefighters and trustworthy to the fire chief and the department,” Rains wrote in the letter after talking with Krites. “Your performance as a captain has not indicated these qualities as indicated by your performance evaluations as a captain and this most recent investigation. While you are not expected to always agree with everyone, you are expected to be honest and to follow directives. Not only is dishonesty unacceptable, but your failure to follow directives cannot be permitted.”
On Monday, Rains said an investigation into the action and behavior of Stinebaugh was conducted and it was determined “he acted inappropriately in regard to our policies and procedures and he was demoted.” He noted during an investigation a city employee “cannot not tell the truth.”
The safety-service director had Police Chief Russ Hunlock conduct the investigation.
Krites said in a telephone interview Monday the disciplinary action started with him and extended to Rains. He noted the senior firefighter on Stinebaugh’s shift would be acting captain until a promotional exam can be given and a firefighter promoted.
Stinebaugh has filed a grievance with the safety-service director to review the case and Stinebaugh is waiting for Rains’ reply.
Stinebaugh told the Wapakoneta Daily News he believes the investigation centers on him talking with three members of Wapakoneta City Council regarding his concerns with the city purchasing a new pumper-heavy rescue vehicle costing more than $500,000. He said he also voiced those concerns with other firefighters and with Krites.
“I felt it was not an efficient use of the taxpayers’ money at this time and the way the economy is,” Stinebaugh said. “I believe people should be concerned and the purchase concerned me.
“I am just looking at the need right now for this new vehicle,” he said. “What I wanted them to do was the same thing, to look at it the same way. Do we need this vehicle now, can we afford it now. I wanted them to do their due diligence. This is what the citizens are going to make them do.”
He said he was off-duty when he called and expressed his views with the three councilors including the councilor representing his ward. Stinebaugh lives in the 1st Ward and is represented by Jim Neumeier.
During the investigation, Stinebaugh said he had difficulty recalling the exact dates of the conversations he had with the councilors — a point of contention in the investigation.
“I just think there has to be a difference between purposefully lying to a person and not remembering the facts as they were,” Stinebaugh said.
If Rains does not reinstate Stinebaugh as a fire captain, the next step would be for Stinebaugh to seek a hearing before an arbitrator where both sides would present evidence and make arguments.