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Liberty leaders ponder fate of 14-year firefighter

Published: Fri, December 23, 2011 @ 12:04 a.m.



By Robert Guttersohn



Township officials are considering the fate of a 14-year firefighter placed on paid administrative leave Monday for violating township policies and department regulations.

The punishment came one week after James K. Thompson, a firefighter in Liberty since 1997, returned from another four-month paid leave, according to the firefighter’s personnel file.

Thompson’s return to the force was contingent on him signing a disciplinary last-chance agreement, which he and township officials signed Dec. 8.

The agreement said Thompson engaged in “acts of threats, violence, harassment and intimidation” to employees before being placed on leave.

It also called for his successful completion of two behavioral-counseling programs.

“We felt it would be best to give him counseling,” township Administrator Pat Ungaro said.

Atty. Mark Finamore, township legal counsel, said officials noted little change when Thompson returned to work Dec. 12.

Thompson was late to work three times that week, according to a memo Liberty Fire Chief Michael Durkin sent to township officials this week.

Durkin called for the firefighter’s termination.

Finamore would not elaborate, citing a pending investigation.

The Vindicator was unable to reach either Thompson or the International Association of Firefighters Local 2075 attorney Dennis Haines to comment.

A Dec. 18 letter signed by 13 of Thompson’s fellow firefighters said working with Thompson created a “hostile” work environment.

According to Mahoning County court records, Thompson has criminal convictions, including multiple charges of operating a vehicle while impaired and one misdemeanor concealed-weapon charge in 2003, which eventually landed him on unpaid leave for 90 days, according to his personnel file.

The township attempted to terminate Thompson in 2004 and in 2007.

Both times, his termination went to arbitration and was negotiated to a lesser punishment.

In August, the township placed Thompson on paid administrative leave, again citing “turbulent behavior.”

Finamore said the investigation will include testimony from both Durkin and Liberty firefighters.

“We want to make sure we are on solid ground and have all our ducks in a row before we proceed,” Finamore said.

He expects a decision by next Friday.


1Superstar7(122 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

“We want to make sure we are on solid ground and have all our ducks in a row before we proceed,” Finamore said.
The Vindicator was unable to reach either Thompson or the International Association of Firefighters Local 2075 attorney Dennis Haines to comment.

Solid grounds?

IF you truly seek to solve the problem vs. treat the symptom...
rid the system of the labor union.

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2steelwagon(284 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

I don't know this guy but if what we're reading here is true he sounds deeply troubled and capable of going off at anytime.
It seems he was given the opportunity to deal with his situation(s) by his employer for 4 months with pay,not a bad deal at all !!!

Careful lining those ducks up Mark.
Makes them a tempting target !!

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3kuzinmarty(1 comment)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

I've not only know this man since 1991 I worked wiyh him as a medic.I've always been proud to call him a friend.He does have his moments like all of us.But I've never seen a person with more compassion for his job.So chief ,put your big panties on,the rest of you to,and get over yourself.He,s more of a fire/medic than you can dream of!!!!!

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4endthismess(463 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

This nut case is "crying to be fired", so...do it. Forget the union. Would you want to see this miserable mess show up to put a fire out at your house? He's so hateful he'd let the place burn to the ground. No asset here guys.Too heavy on the public liability end. Some people are just too far gone and finished with a job to get out of their own self destructive path. Let's see, then he'll want to file for a disability, yep....that's the next step. The job drove him crazy. For Pete's sake township, put away the magnifying glass. Put this horse out to pasture and MOVE ON.

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5honestman(33 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

first off, superstar, dont make this a union issue, why punish the whole lot for one guy, the union didnt make this mess, an individual with problems obviously if 13 of his coworkers are signing a letter something is wrong here.

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6southsidedave(5189 comments)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Another fallen official...a real joke

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7stopthedrama(1 comment)posted 4 years, 6 months ago

Kuzinmarty, please explain the need to attack the entire department. I think that they have more than 13 employees.

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8MissBlue(1 comment)posted 2 years, 7 months ago

Evil, angry man. I knew him personally. Out of control, with a hair trigger anger problem. Yes, he was an excellent FF/EMT- he loved his work, but hated people, especially those who did not agree with him- which was just about every body. In retrospect... not only do I pity him, but he got what he deserved. Chaoskarma is a bitch, for sure.

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976Ytown(1345 comments)posted 2 years, 3 months ago

Doesn't matter how bad this employee is. Coworkers have to deal with hostile work environment. Attempted to term this guy in 2004 & 2007 and still dealing with his problems? Nearly impossible to fire a union employee.

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