Greater Round Lake Fire Protection District Capt. John Whitten remains on an unpaid leave of absence pending a disciplinary hearing before the board of trustees, officials said.
Fire Chief Paul Maplethorpe said the hearing had been set for Friday, but both sides agreed to continue it to an unspecified date. He said the case may come before the five-member board in late July or early August.
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Whitten had been the fire district's deputy chief, Maplethorpe said, but voluntarily requested a demotion to captain and wound up on unpaid leave. Maplethorpe said the board of trustees agreed to the demotion in June.
Maplethorpe said the 17 formal, internal charges "regarding a number of activities" were lodged against Whitten on June 11. He said details about the accusations cannot be made public until the disciplinary hearing occurs.
Whitten's attorney, Jed Stone, said he believes the fire board will find each charge against his client to be "trivial, unproven and unproveable." Stone did not reveal all of the accusations against Whitten, but said they include buying items for a fire station such as Charmin toilet paper, coffee beans "for the guys to drink good coffee" and Fresh Step cat litter.
In addition, Stone said, Whitten is accused of securing firehouse lighting work from a company in which a district firefighter owns a partial share. Stone said Whitten didn't know anything about the company's ownership structure.
"Deputy Chief Whitten has served the community as a firefighter and as a deputy chief for over 20 years," Stone said Thursday. "His file is replete with letters of commendation and awards. He loves being a firefighter and serving his community and is good at it."
Citing a continuing investigation, Maplethorpe declined to respond to Stone's characterization of the accusations against Whitten.
Maplethorpe said Whitten was placed on a paid leave of absence in April. He said the board agreed to shift Whitten to unpaid leave June 11.
Whitten became a full-time firefighter 17 years ago and worked his way to deputy chief at the Greater Round Lake fire district. Maplethorpe said Whitten spent the first three years of his career there as a part-time firefighter.
Stone said the charges Maplethorpe brought against Whitten are not enough to warrant ruining a man's career and possibly causing him to lose his pension.
"John Whitten is the kind of guy who would run into a burning building to save a child," Stone said.
The fire district covers a majority of the Round Lake communities and Hainesville, along with portions of Grayslake and unincorporated Lake County.