Firefighter says Absecon, NJ suspended him over Facebook ‘like’
ABSECON — A veteran volunteer firefighter was suspended for 30 days over a comment he made on a Facebook post.
Veteran Deputy Fire Chief Dale Conover was suspended on March 4 for 30 days for an "inappropriate post" on Facebook, according to a letter from Absecon fire Chief Roy Talley to Conover. The letter was obtained by Harry Hurley of WPG Talk Radio, a sister station of New Jersey 101.5.
The suspension was the result of his liking a post in the public Facebook group "Yeah, I'm from Absecon" about a boat ramp and calling the project "a waste of taxpayer money," according to Conover and his daughter Ashley.
"I’m truly disgusted with the people who are targeting my father. A hero. All my life he’s done nothing but save people, help people, and volunteer his time because that’s what he loves to do and you are going to try and take that away from him," Ashley Conover wrote.
At Thursday's City Council meeting, Dale Conover explained his side.
"In my opinion, this has nothing to do with the fire department, which I've been an active member of for 40 years," Conover said. "Being a volunteer firefighter is a thankless hobby. Most people don't realize the hours of sacrifices we make. Family gatherings you miss or are late getting to or are interrupted to leave your loved ones to help people not knowing if you're ever going to see them again."
Conover said Talley and the police chief are being pressured by the city and put in a bad spot.
He and his wife came home early from a Florida vacation in order to come home to defend himself, Conover said.
A need for due process?
Chris Seher, a former councilman who said he does not share Conover's opinion on the boat ramp, asked for a clarification on Conover's suspension and a lack of due process.
"To hear that there was no direct interaction or personnel discussion with the employee or the volunteer before an action was taken, I don't get it," he said.
While the council could not discuss Conover's suspension publicly, City Solicitor Bill Blaney explained that because the fire department is volunteer they have their own bylaws that apply to personnel matters.
"If the city were to take action there would be charges placed by the city and a hearing," Blaney said, adding that he could not comment further.
Conover spoke with Hurley on Monday during his program and admitted he worked during the time of his suspension and believes a fellow member reported his non-compliance to the city government. He expects further punishment for the violation.
Township Administrator Jessica Thompson, Lally and the Atlantic County Firefighters' Association on Monday morning did not respond to New Jersey 101.5's request for more information.
Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
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