Firefighters fired for lax attendance

Veterans didn't go to enough training sessions, fire calls

Aug. 12, 2009

Mequon — Two veteran city firefighters have lost their jobs after the Police and Fire Commission found they had failed to meet department training and fire response standards.

Greg Holz, who has been a full-time firefighter in Greenfield for the last 20 years, joined the Mequon department 23 years ago as a paid-on-call firefighter. Robert Schepp has been a paid-on-call firefighter in Mequon for 24 years.

Commission President Richard Bub began the Aug. 12 meeting by reading prepared statements that thanked the two for their service to the city but then got into the heart of the ruling.

The commission found Holz and Schepp violated department rules and they were terminated effective immediately.

According to the statement, the commission found the training rules were reasonable and that there was no evidence of discrimination in Fire Chief David Bialk's treatment of the men.

Standards took effect in '07

The commission in May 2007 adopted standards requiring firefighters to attend 75 percent of training sessions and to respond to 20 percent of fire calls. The standards were not implemented until January 2008 to allow firefighters time to change their schedules and to adapt to the new rules, and because there was no administrative support in the department at the time. Bialk posted the rules and regulations and discussed them at training after their adoption.

Bialk filed charges against the men after they failed to meet the standards during 2008. Several other firefighters also failed to meet the standards and resigned, but Holz, Schepp and a third firefighter, Stacy Cooke, asked for hearings before the commission. Cooke's hearing is set for Oct. 8.

According to the charges:

• Schepp attended 42 percent of the training sessions and responded to calls 6 percent of the time during the first half of 2008. He attended training 61 percent of the time and responded to 14 percent of fire calls in the second half of the year.

• Holz attended 26 percent of the training sessions in the first half of 2008 and responded to 10 percent of the calls. He attended 17 percent of the training and answered 8.8 percent of the calls during the second half of the year.

• Cooke, a nine-year veteran, attended 32 percent of the training and responded to 8 percent of the calls in the first six months of 2008; and 72 percent of the training and 14.8 percent of the calls in the second half.

'A loss for words'

Schepp did not attend the commission meeting to hear the findings, but Holz, who did attend, said he was disappointed with the findings.

"I am kind of at a loss for words," he said. "I thought I had brought to light inequalities in the discipline in the department."

The findings can be appealed in Ozaukee County Circuit Court, but Holz said he would have to review the decision with his lawyer, Tim Hawks, before making a decision about an appeal.

Schepp could not be reached for comment. Bialk said he would not comment on personnel matters.

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