Five firefighters wait for appeal decision

STEUBENVILLE – The city Civil Service Commission will decide Thursday if five firefighters were laid off without adequate notice earlier this month.

Terence Cooper. Kristopher Dight, Justin Boley, Mike Bess and Chad Smith appealed their layoffs, effective April 1, citing the city’s failure to provide adequate notice.

Commission Chairwoman Delores Wiggins said the commission heard arguments from Dennis Haines, representing the International Association of Firefighters Local 228, who said the city should have provided a 14-day layoff notice.

The union originally had also cited the city has adequate funding to keep the firefighters working, but Wiggins said Haines did not discuss that issue.

Steubenville attorney Joe Corabi served as the hearing examiner during the approximately 90-minute hearing Monday morning.

“Law Director Gary Repella argued the 14-day layoff notice in the Ohio Revised Code did not apply in this case,” Wiggins said.

“Commission member Jerry Barilla and I will meet with Joe Corabi on Thursday to hear his recommendation, and we will then make a decision,” said Wiggins.

Commission member Rob D’Anniballe recused himself from the proceedings because he serves as a labor negotiator for the city.

City officials have cited the expiration of the three-year Staffing Adequate Firing & Emergency Response grant as the reason for the layoff of two of the firefighters.

Local 228 President Chris Blackburn has said the union is “very disappointed the city laid these gentlemen off. But we will continue pursuing every avenue to get these gentlemen back to work. Bringing them back to the fire department will benefit the residents of this community and our firefighters.”

“These gentlemen have lived with the threat of layoffs for the past five years. But they maintained their commitment to the city. We need to do the right thing and put these men back on their jobs,” added Blackburn.

“We plan on working diligently to bring the five firefighters back. For the past five years we have given the city substantial concessions. I appreciate keeping the Pleasant Heights fire house open, but I don’t like laying off five firefighters,” Blackburn said.

Fire Chief Carlo Capaldi told the city council in March the fire department can run all three fire stations with the department’s current 10-man manning agreement.

“With these layoffs we will be down to 31 firefighters including myself. And that covers the manning level. Yes, this is a Band-Aid approach. Something needs to be done for next year and move forward,” Capaldi said.