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Greenport Village Fire Council files disciplinary charges against former chief

09/20/2019 11:24 AM |

The Greenport Village Fire Council will press disciplinary charges against former fire chief Jeffrey Weingart following a July evaluation of the Third Street firehouse from the Public Employee Safety and Health Bureau, officials confirmed Wednesday. 

Council members approved a resolution Wednesday following an executive session that authorized the continued suspension of the former chief. Members also appointed Robert Draffin as the hearing officer to conduct a hearing in accordance with section 209-1 of the municipal law, fire department and company by-laws.

Second assistant chief James Kalin said it’s a legal matter and details of the charges are pending. Mr. Kalin has taken on the duties of Mr. Weingart and first assistant chief Susano Jimenez, who resigned effective Aug 22.

Details of the charges will be determined at a tentatively set Oct. 8 hearing at the old schoolhouse, near Aldo’s Coffee Company on Front Street, Mr. Kalin said.

Mr. Weingart was initially suspended from his position for three weeks following an Aug. 28 special board of wardens meeting. At that meeting, officials determined they would decide if Mr. Weingart would retain his position. A motion was made that authorized disciplinary action against Mr. Weingart pertaining to the PESH investigation.

Lamb & Barnosky LLP of Melville will represent the fire council and Pinsky Law Group PLLC of Syracuse will represent Mr. Weingart.

The attorney representing Mr. Weingart was not immediately available for comment.

PESH requested certain documents at the time of the inspection, but the department did not have that paperwork immediately available when the inspector was present, according to previous reports.

Mr. Kalin said some of the appropriate documentation wasn’t immediately available to present to the PESH officer, hadn’t been updated as per procedure, or was not “stringent” enough.

“We may have had a policy that said ‘We’re going to do A, B and C,’ ” he said. “But the state wants you to say ‘A, B, C, D, E and F,’ and go a little deeper into the subject matter.”

After the inspection, PESH issued a notice of violation and order to comply to the village July 24. The village, which oversees the fire department, was found in violation of eight health and safety standards.

Last month The Suffolk Times submitted a Freedom of Information Act request for the detailed violations brought before the village and Mr. Jimenez’s resignation letter. The request was completed Thursday, Sept. 12.

The resignation letter did not make reference to the PESH evaluation.

“This has been something that I have been thinking about a lot recently and if my heart is not into it, I cannot do my job as an asst. chief,” the letter from Mr. Jimenez read.

In previous interviews, Mr. Kalin said the letter did not mention PESH. However, Mayor George Hubbard Jr. said he believed the resignation was related to the PESH evaluation.

The PESH notice received by the village states that the violations are alleged to have occurred on or about the inspection date, which falls between Jan. 29, 2019 and July 16, 2019.

The notice described eight violations, seven of which are “serious” and one as “non serious.”

Village attorney Joseph Prokop said the Village has met all necessary abatement deadlines and has submitted documents to PESH prior to those dates.

“The status is everything is in the process of being submitted to PESH,” he said Thursday.

The first and second item related to the written respiratory protection program and procedures for respirator use. The notice stated a written program was not established and implemented by the department. Those violations must be addressed by Oct. 1.

The third violation was related to training for use of those respirators.

“The employer did not provide comprehensive, understandable training which did not occur annually and/or more often if necessary,” the document stated. “The employer did not demonstrate that 100 employees who are required to use respirators have received the required annual training.”

The fourth and fifth violation addressed a mandated Exposure Control Plan, designed to “eliminate or minimize employee exposure to blood or other potentially harmful materials.” The department must provide employees with bloodborne pathogen training and a written plan by Oct. 1 and 23, respectively.

The sixth citation stated the fire department did not provide information and training on the risks of workplace violence. That violation must be abated by Nov. 15.

The last “serious” violation stated the department failed to develop a risk assessments used to “identify the types and heights of buildings and other structures in the area where firefighters are expected to work and to determine under what circumstances escape ropes and system components will be required … to protect the safety of firefighters.”

The deadline for the seventh and eighth violation expired Sept. 10. The eighth “non serious” violation stated that records required under Part 801 of state code were not available for inspection and copying.

“Copies of records must be provided within four …business hours, regardless of where records are maintained,” the notice stated. 

PESH was created in 1980 to enforce safety and health standards promulgated under the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act and several other state standards, according to its website. The PESH Act sets occupational safety and health protection standards for all public sector employees, the website states.

According to PESH documents, an employer that fails to correct a violation by its abatement date is subject to a per day penalty assessment. PESH can assess a penalty of up to $50 per day for each non-serious violation and up to $200 per day for each serious violation.

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