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WESTMINSTER : 2 Who Were Fired Reinstated by City

Acting City Manager Robert C. Huntley has reinstated a Fire Department captain and a firefighter who were fired in May for alleged payroll violations.

Huntley said Monday that he has ordered Capt. Joe Wilson and firefighter Dana Bowler back to work after determining at an appeal hearing this month that the penalties against the two employees were too severe.

Huntley reduced the penalties to one-month suspensions, which both have already served since they were fired more than two months ago.

Huntley said he upheld the firing of former battalion chiefs Don Herr and Hal Raphael and former captain Mike Garrison, who have been accused of fraudulently using sick leave, vacation and paid time off from work over a seven-year period.

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The former employees have denied the allegations, which came about during an eight-month review of Fire Department payroll practices by the accounting firm KPMG Peat Marwick.

More than 20 Fire Department employees have been suspended or given reprimands as a result of the auditors’ report, which concluded in April that city payroll policies were routinely violated.

Huntley did not explain his decisions, saying that the city has agreed to place the cases of Herr, Raphael and Garrison before an arbitrator.

Another case going to an arbitrator is that of Paul Gilbrook, president of the Westminster Firefighters Assn., who was fired in February for allegedly driving a fire engine without a valid license and cashing out used sick leave.

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Lawyers representing the city and the firefighters are still trying to agree on a date and an arbitrator to hear the cases, Huntley said. The arbitrator’s decision will not be binding, he added.

The City Council will make the final decision on the employment status of the former employees, Huntley said. The firefighters union has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the dismissals violated the firefighters’ civil rights. The case is pending, officials said.

Union officials have charged that the disciplinary actions against the firefighters were in retaliation for their support of a recall drive against Mayor Charles V. Smith and three other members of the City Council. The recall failed.

Former Assistant City Manager Don Anderson, now the redevelopment director, fired Wilson, Bowler, Raphael, Herr and Garrison in May following a termination hearing conducted by the city’s labor lawyer.

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