By Gail Peckler-Dziki
Correspondent

The Salem Lakes Police and Fire Commission signed a stipulation agreement that ended any dispute between Salem Lakes firefighter Michael Keske, Fire Chief Mike Slover and Lt. Michael Murdoch at the Dec. 7 commission meeting.

During a November 29 pre-hearing meeting, both sides agreed to the stipulation agreement.

The agreement states, ‘This stipulation is a resolution of disputed issues and does not constitute an admission by Slover or Murdock of any violation of statute, ordinance, rule or policy.”

Slover and Murdoch have agreed to not take any negative action against Keske for filing a complaint with the PFC.

Keske’s complaint was one of three made shortly after the first meeting of the commission, which consists of members Shirley Boening, Ed Herreid, Tom Robinson, Chris Dreyer and chairman Greg Galich.

Both Galich and Boening were present at the Nov. 29 pre-hearing meeting, where Keske’s attorney Timothy Hawks stated that his client wanted a delay. An anonymous source said the reason given was to rewrite the complaint, which identifies what local ordinances and state and federal laws that had been broken.

The group, however, agreed that the issue had gone on long enough, so Boening and Galich stepped out of the room and an agreement to resolve the matter in its entirety without a hearing was reached.

The three-page complaint makes general and vague allegations against Murdoch and Slover. Some of the complaint seems to concern out of which station Keske will serve.

Galich told The Report that he received a call from former firefighter Jill Torres, who asked to meet with him. This was prior to any PFC meetings.

In a meeting interview after the Dec. 7 meeting, Galich said he did not know why she wanted to meet with him, but as soon as she told him, he stopped the meeting and told her to follow proper channels.

At an early PFC meeting when department policies were being reviewed, Galich said he wanted anyone, both public and department personnel, to be able to bring any complaint directly to the PFC.

Slover said complaints going directly to the PFC would create issues, since the fire department is a paramilitary organization, noting a chain of command must be followed.

Slover noted his department already had a grievance policy in place. The rest of the commission agreed that any complaints should follow the chain of command and come to the PFC only if there is no resolution.

When the commission reviewed the three complaints, members decided to refer Virginia Randle’s grievance through the department’s chain of command, and decided not to hear the Torres complaint since it happened many years before the PFC was in place.

The decision on Torres came on a recommendation from Municipal Attorney Rich Sholze.

Galich, who was out of town at the time, said he did not read any of the complaints.

Recently, the commission and fire chief attended a League of Municipalities seminar.

During the Dec. 7 meeting, Galich said he asked the state’s attorney at the seminar about whether the Torres complaint was handled correctly.

He said he was told that there is no case law for this and the PFC should have followed the municipal attorney advice.

“I was told the only thing left for this person to do was to file a civil lawsuit,” Galich said.

 
 

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