GARDINER — The city spent $12,850 to investigate three firefighters accused of inappropriate conduct against a city employee.

The firefighters — Richard Sieberg, Andrew Santheson and Dustin Barry, who is president of the Gardiner Fire Fighters International Association of Firefighters Local 2303 — were reprimanded and suspended last month by the city, according to released documents.

City Manager Scott Morelli said the city spent $9,600 on an independent investigation and $3,250 in legal fees.

The city splits its cost 80-20 between the ambulance enterprise fund and the city’s general fund, so $10,280 was paid for through the ambulance fund “and not with tax dollars,” Morelli said.

Meanwhile, the city has denied a Freedom of Access Act request by the Kennebec Journal for a copy of the investigator’s report that led to the discipline. The city hired an independent investigator to look into the accusations — which are described only as inappropriate conduct against another city employee in disciplinary letters — and issue a report.

Each of the three firefighters was found to have violated city rules through the unspecified conduct. Police were not involved because no criminal action took place, officials said.

Citing state law, Morelli said that investigator’s report would not be publicly released because it involves “complaints, charges or accusations of misconduct, replies to those complaints, charges or accusations and any other information or materials that may result in disciplinary action.”

All three Gardiner Fire Department employees received a one-year suspended termination, meaning they can be fired immediately if they violate city policy again. Discipline also included a demotion for one firefighter — Sieberg’s rank was lowered from captain to lieutenant — and unpaid suspensions of one or two days.

Complaints against the three firefighters were filed in December. Under their union contract, all three firefighters had 30 days to appeal the discipline, Morelli said, but that time has expired and so the discipline is final. The firefighters were all back on the job as of Jan. 10.

The city has 16 fire department employees.

Josh Johnson, vice president of Gardiner Fire Fighters Local 2303, said Sieberg, Barry, and Santheson would not comment on the matter.

The union released a brief statement saying it cooperated with the investigation into the violations.

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

Mechele Cooper — 621-5663

[email protected]

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