GARDINER — Three firefighters, including a captain and a union president, were reprimanded and suspended last month by the city because they engaged in inappropriate conduct against a city employee, according to documents released Thursday.

All three Gardiner Fire Department employees received a one-year suspended termination, meaning they can be fired immediately if they violate city policy again, according to the documents. Discipline also included demotion and unpaid suspensions.

The firefighters — Capt. Richard Sieberg, Andrew Santheson and Dustin Barry, president of the Gardiner Fire Fighters International Association of Firefighters Local 2303 — were back on the job as of Jan. 10. They could not be reached for comment Thursday.

City Manager Scott Morelli wouldn’t say Thursday what the three men did, whether the employee who made the accusations is a firefighter or whether the employee is a man or a woman.

Morelli said criminal conduct was not alleged, so police were not involved. The city hired an independent investigator to look into the accusations and issue a report, he said.

“The state law does not allow us to elaborate further or to release any additional information about the matter, including the investigator’s report, because this is an employment matter,” Morelli said.

Sieberg, Santheson and Barry are prohibited from engaging in any acts of retaliation against any employee, including the employee who made the accusations or those who participated in the investigation.

“If you engage in any form of retaliation, it will result in immediate termination,” Morelli wrote.

The complaints against the three firefighters were lodged in December.

Under their union contract, all three firefighters had 30 days to appeal the discipline, Morelli said.

The 30 days have expired, he said, so the discipline is final and the city is required by state law to release the letters.

In a statement, Gardiner Firefighters Local 2303 said it has cooperated with the investigation.

“Although we disagree with the third party investigators’ findings, the local has chosen to move forward looking to the future and continue providing unsurpassed services to our communities,” the union statement said.

All three received hand-delivered letters, dated Jan. 5, that outlined the penalties for each firefighter.

In the letter to Sieberg, Morelli said, “these measures, which are effective immediately, take into consideration the additional responsibility you had as a supervisor to not only refrain from engaging in prohibited activities, but also your responsibility to present others from engaging in such activities and to report such violations to the fire chief.

“I believe you failed in these responsibilities,” Morelli wrote.

Sieberg, of West Gardiner, was demoted from captain to lieutenant with a reduction in pay. He had to work two days without pay, his work shift was changed and he received mandatory employee assistance program counseling.

Santheson and Barry both were changed to different work shifts and required mandatory counseling.

Santheson had to work two days with no pay, and Barry had one unpaid work day.

Gardiner Fire Chief Michael Minkowski said the city followed proper procedure and represented everybody involved. Minkowski declined to comment on the accusations against the firefighters.

“This was a very cooperative event, and all parties are looking to getting this process completed,” Minkowski said. “We’re all moving on at this point. Everybody to my knowledge is pleased. It’s been a very cooperative effort.”

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

 


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