Carol Stream fire commissioners recommend firing battalion chief

  • Karl Ottosen, an attorney for Carol Stream Fire Protection District Fire Chief Richard Kolomay, speaks at Wednesday's hearing for Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles.

      Karl Ottosen, an attorney for Carol Stream Fire Protection District Fire Chief Richard Kolomay, speaks at Wednesday's hearing for Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles. Safiya Merchant | Staff Photographer

 
Updated 11/20/2014 1:31 PM

The Carol Stream Fire Protection District's board of commissioners on Wednesday recommended terminating Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles, who faced charges of misconduct.

Commissioners found that Gilles' misconduct is a "substantial shortcoming" that makes his continued employment in the district "in some way detrimental to the discipline and efficiency of the department and fire service," according to a statement read by the board's attorney.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Although the commissioners recommended firing Gilles, the district's board of trustees still must vote on the matter.

The commissioners' recommendation comes after a monthslong disciplinary hearing for the battalion chief, which centered on Fire Chief Richard Kolomay's allegations that Gilles failed to follow orders to sign a performance improvement plan, known as a PIP. By not signing the plan, Gilles violated four rules of conduct, according to the allegations. The plan outlined core issues with Gilles, including that he does not have the proper management and leadership skills, and also lists seven goals for him.

During the disciplinary hearing, Gilles' attorneys argued that Gilles was never actually ordered to sign the plan, and that even if he was, that order would have been unlawful.

They have also argued that Gilles fell out of favor with district superiors when he was asked to investigate possible acts of negligence by a paramedic involved in a 2012 call for a woman choking. The woman was taken to a hospital and died three days later.

The commissioners previously had upheld the charges of misconduct against Gilles at a hearing last month. Some of their findings included that Kolomay did order Gilles to sign the improvement plan, and that it was a lawful order.

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The board of commissioners announced their decision Wednesday after Kolomay again took the stand, and attorneys on both sides made closing statements.

"It's never fun to pursue termination of anybody -- no one likes to do that," said Karl Ottosen, one of Kolomay's attorneys, after the commissioners' recommendation was announced. "But you have the right to expect employees engage in conduct of a certain level. And when they fall below that, you look to impose discipline to either improve performance, not just to punish but to improve performance. ... Challenging that authority of the chief, to say you need to improve in these areas and I am not even going to try, brought on the charges," Ottosen added. "And so unfortunately, this is where we're at."

Aldo Botti, an attorney for Gilles, said they will be appealing the decision if confirmed by the trustees, and they are also "considering other actions that are related to this incident."

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