A Lowell, Massachusetts firefighter who was found not guilty of drunk driving is now in hot water for having driven fire apparatus while his license was suspended.
Firefighter Donald Goyette was arrested on October 20, 2011 by Massachusetts State Police and charged with drunk driving, a lane violation, and refusal to submit to a breathalyzer. The refusal offense triggered an automatic six month suspension of Goyette’s driver’s license.
Goyette never informed his superiors of the offenses and despite a jury verdict in his favor on the drunk driving offense, his license remained suspended on the refusal charge. Never the less, it appears that Goyette may have continued to drive fire apparatus while on duty for the entire six months his license was suspended.
According to the LowellSun.com neither the fire department nor the city manager were aware that Goyette’s driver’s license had been suspended until they were informed by a reporter. Thereafter, Goyette was placed on unpaid administrative leave.
The details are available in the LowellSun.com web site. Its worse but I won’t go into it.
The story should not sound all that unfamiliar (remember Haverhill, Massachusetts firefighter Kevin Thompson who allegedly drove fire trucks for years without a license) and again raises questions about what fire chiefs need to do to manage the off-duty misconduct and driver’s licensure of firefighters. Many departments mandate that firefighters report all off duty criminal and driving offenses. Some are now resorting to performing periodic criminal background checks as well as driving record checks.
Neither of these activities offer a guaranty that this kind of misconduct will be caught, but they are at least a step in that direction. Seriously… a reporter had to break this news to the fire department? How can reporters possibly be watching this kind of thing closer than we are?
Are we at the point where a company officer needs to check the driver’s license of his/her personnel each shift? It is a sad state of affairs that such a practice must even be contemplated.
That question leads to another: did others within the department know about Goyette’s situation and choose to cover for him? “I got your back”… can be both a strength and a weakness of our fire service culture.
When it leads to a reporter breaking a story like this I’d have to say it is the latter.