Illinois Firefighter Will Not be Disciplined for Facebook Posting

“I don’t agree with what he put, but I can’t discipline someone because of something that they said.”  With those words, Fire Chief John McGuire last night announced he would not be disciplining Swansea firefighter Kody Koudelka over a Facebook posting he made that elected officials complained was “vulgar” and “offensive”. [See prior posting].

Mayor Jim Rauckman along with Village Trustees Susan Schultz and Susan O’Malley complained about the post during a meeting on November  5, 2012. Upon being asked to remove the post by Chief McGuire, Koudelka immediately complied. However, the elected officials felt that Koudelka needed to be punished.

Trustee Shultz said “I think it was very offensive, and I think it lacked good judgment on behalf of an employee working for the village, and I agree that discipline is necessary. …This is a severe image of what our employees are saying about this board.”

Chief McGuire stood his ground and in the face of hostilities from elected officials told them that in the absence of a village policy that Koudelka clearly violated he would not impose any discipline. The chief did note, however, that Koudelka took “a lot of heat” from other firefighters about the post, and “He’s definitely learned his lesson. … I’m confident it won’t happen again.”

More on the story.

Incidentally, Swansea recently reduced the fire department budget, and forced Chief McGuire to take a pay cut. Well…you know how difficult these times can be. After all, with the economics being what they are… Firefighters have to be reasonable… They have to understand. Elected officials have a hard job to do… with deficits and all.

Oh… and by the way, the elected officials gave the police chief a raise roughly equivalent to what they cut from the fire department.

Now I wonder if that might have played a role in Koudelka’s comments? If I was a firefighter in that community I might have some choice words to say about elected officials who use tough economic times as a convenient excuse to play their dirty political games.

… “lying, thieving bastards”… I might go a bit further than that – and I would definitely be more colorful.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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