Carol Stream firefighter's termination hearing postponed
The termination hearing of a Carol Stream Fire Protection District battalion chief that began Wednesday was continued until Feb. 12 before opening arguments could be made and witnesses called.
At issue is some 80 pages of documents attorneys for Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles are requesting from attorneys for Carol Stream Fire Chief Richard Kolomay.
Jim Knippen, attorney for the fire commission hearing the case, said he emailed both sides a letter evaluating what documents are and are not subject to privilege, but neither side received the report.
"Both sides would prefer to make opening statements immediately before evidence is heard," said Knippen. "The evidence couldn't be heard because there is an issue of whether additonal documents will be provided by the chief's attorney to (Gilles') attorney. They (Kolomay's attorneys) intended on calling (Gilles) as their first witness, and I wasn't going to let that happen until (Gilles' attorneys) had all the discovery needed to prepare their case. My conclusion was it simply wouldn't be fair."
Gilles has been charged by Kolomay for twice refusing to sign a performance improvement plan last July in what Kolomay's lawyers have termed a "serious breach of conduct." Gilles' attorneys counter that their client fell into disfavor when he was asked to investigate reports of negligence by a paramedic stemming from a call on Aug. 25, 2012. Gilles' investigation supported allegations the paramedic did not follow protocols, his attorneys claim, and may have contributed to the death of 81-year-old Armida Nonneman of Carol Stream three days later.
"We thought the continuance was appropriate," said John Botti, attorney for Gilles. "In order to ensure a fair hearing we need to have the documents that they are withholding from us so that we can prepare. The privileged documents we have not seen at all; they have to decide whether they will give them to us. We expect that they will.
"We feel those documents are important to the case because they involve internal communcations regarding the incident and regarding Chief Gilles' termination and improvement plan. It's tough to say how important they are without reviewing them."
Knippen did rule that in the case of some documents he was rejecting the claim that union privilege would apply.
Earlier a motion by Gilles' attorneys was denied requesting that Ronald Murray, one of a three-member Board of Commissioners hearing the case, be disqualified as a hearing officer.
Citing an email from Kolomay to Murray that said "Please believe me, what is being done here is very justified," Gilles' attorney Aldo Botti characterized it as "clear evidence of a tainted commission."
"It's a violation of due process," Botti said.
The hearing will resume at 4 p.m. on Feb. 12 and is scheduled to continue through Feb. 14.
"We've been through it before -- we'd like to get things started," said Meganne Trela, Kolomay's attorney, of the continuance. "That's the way these things go some times. The hearing officer had reviewed those documents. We are deferring to his review. Hopefully, once we get his report we'll move forward and hopefully there won't be disagreement beyond that."