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updated: 2/21/2014 4:49 AM

Carol Stream fire officer: No bias against battalion chief Gilles

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Robert Schultz claims he holds no prejudice against Joseph Gilles, even though he at one time feared retaliation from the Carol Stream Fire Protection District battalion chief, and that they "tolerated" each other in their four years working together.

"We got along," Lt. Schultz said. "It wasn't like I came in and had it out with Joe every day."

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Schultz's previous testimony concerning Gilles was repeatedly called into question during a second day of cross-examination in the termination hearing of Gilles that resumed Thursday. Gilles has been charged by Fire Chief Richard Kolomay with disobeying orders and insubordination -- twice refusing to sign a performance improvement plan.

Again and again, Gilles' attorney Aldo Botti asked if Schultz's views of Gilles and input into the plan were based on a study, scientific methodology, analysis or specialized training -- or if it was just Schultz's "speculation."

Schultz said in previous testimony that on June 1, 2013, he was asked by Kolomay to cite Gilles' strengths and weaknesses for an "informal survey of command staff" and Schultz said his biggest concerns were a lack of communication on the shift, and a lack of coaching and training.

Three core issues on the plan cited were "lacks proper management skills," "doesn't garner the respect of his peers," and that his peers "do not trust him as a leader." Schultz conceded it was based on "personal opinion as it relates to work."

At one point, Botti suggested "You gotta admit, there's just a little bit of bias against Joe Gilles."

"It's my professional opinion," Schultz replied. "If you don't believe me I guess you'll have to ask the other 50 people in this room."

Gilles and his attorneys have argued that the attempts at termination are retaliation in the aftermath of Gilles' investigation into reports of negligence by Carey Zabran, a paramedic no longer with the district, stemming from a call Aug. 25, 2012.

Attorneys for the family of 81-year-old Armida Nonneman of Carol Stream -- who died three days after the paramedics were called as Nonneman was choking -- filed a wrongful-death lawsuit two weeks ago against the village and Zabran, alleging negligence.

Testimony was given three times in closed session Thursday -- per a motion granted prior to opening arguments that any testimony given related to the Aug. 25, 2012, paramedic call be made in that manner.

"It relates to patient care," said Jim Knippen, attorney for the three-man fire commission hearing the case. "We're doing it because of the HIPAA medical care protections. There's been no release given to this commission from anyone to hear testimony specific to the care and treatment of this patient (Nonneman). In absence of such a release I would not allow the commission to hear that testimony in open session, because of potential legal exposure."

In previous testimony Gilles said he was asked by Kolomay to investigate the actions of eight employees on the paramedic call after the chief received concerns from a "credible outside complainant."

Schultz had shared his concerns with Gilles the night of the call, gave it about a week, then went to Deputy Chief Robert Hoff himself. He said Thursday he now believes that he was the "outside" complainant.

"Chief Hoff told me that he would just say that it was an outside source, and there would be no threat of retaliation against me (from Gilles)," said Schultz, who had shared concerns of retaliation with Hoff.

Gilles later investigated the call, and twice told Kolomay that he believed that Zabran's alleged negligence should be reported to Central DuPage Hospital, which oversees the district's Emergency Medical Services program.

Gilles now believes the program's director was never notified by Kolomay, but Schultz on Thursday said he didn't think it was warranted. Schultz said that his concerns about Zabran's actions were "operational," that equipment from the truck had not been grabbed properly.

"It was not directly related to patient care," Schultz said.

The hearing is to resume at 4 p.m. Feb. 27 with Kolomay's attorneys expected to call Hoff to testify.

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