No decision yet on fate of Carol Stream fire battalion chief

  • Aldo Botti, an attorney for Carol Stream Fire District Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles, presents his closing arguments at a Wednesday hearing. "Your decision will last longer than your tenure as commissioners," Botti said.

      Aldo Botti, an attorney for Carol Stream Fire District Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles, presents his closing arguments at a Wednesday hearing. "Your decision will last longer than your tenure as commissioners," Botti said. Safiya merchant | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 9/18/2014 8:59 AM

Although closing arguments were heard Wednesday in the monthslong disciplinary hearing for a Carol Stream Fire District battalion chief, the journey is not over yet.

The district's board of commissioners will meet to deliberate as a group later this month. If they don't finish deliberating, they will continue Oct. 1. They are expected to publicly state if they find the battalion chief innocent or guilty Oct. 15, officials said.

 

The hearing centers on district Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles, who has been accused of failing to follow Fire Chief Richard Kolomay's orders to sign a performance improvement plan. By not signing it, Gilles violated four district rules of conduct, according to the allegations.

Kolomay is asking that Gilles be terminated.

But attorneys for Gilles have argued Gilles was never explicitly ordered to sign the plan, known as a PIP, and even if he were, that order would have been unlawful.

The PIP lists Gilles' core performance issues, as well as goals for the battalion chief, such as designing a personal agenda.

Gilles' legal team has said the PIP is confusing and that it does not lay out specific criteria on which Gilles would be judged.

His attorneys have also alleged that Gilles fell out of favor with the district when he was asked to investigate possible acts of negligence by a district paramedic who responded in August 2012 to a Carol Stream woman who was choking on food.

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The woman died three days after the district took her to the hospital.

Karl Ottosen, an attorney for Kolomay, said Gilles admitted before the district's board of commissioners that he was ordered on July 18 and Aug. 2 in 2013 to sign the performance improvement plan.

"(Gilles) admitted that he never asked Chief Kolomay or any other district representative or officer any questions about the orders to sign and participate in the performance improvement plan," Ottosen said. "He asked no questions regarding the performance improvement plan's components, goals, objectives, evaluation measurements."

After Ottosen finished, Aldo Botti, an attorney for Gilles, told the commissioners their decision in the Gilles case would have a lasting impact on the district.

"Your decision will last longer than your tenure as commissioners," Botti said, because their decision will set precedent for future decisions and will affect every firefighter and paramedic in the district.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"You are justice," Botti said.

Botti said Kolomay never really ordered Gilles to sign the PIP. Even in one letter to Gilles that used the word "order," Botti said, Gilles had two other options besides signing the PIP.

Botti also said the PIP is a problematic document.

"The PIP is unlawful. The PIP is vague," he said, adding it requires the chief to make decisions about Gilles' improvement.

"It is not objective," Botti said.

Among his final statements, Ottosen said Gilles had performance issues long before the PIP was created.

"This is nothing new for Battalion Chief Gilles," Ottosen said. "He just has not corrected the deficiencies, and so the chief went to (a) formal performance improvement plan."

He also responded to Botti's claims about subjectivity.

"Performance evaluation is always subjective," Ottosen said.

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