Posts Tagged Karl Ottosen

Carol Stream FPD conducts termination proceedings (more) has an article on the termination proceedings of a Carol Stream FPD battalion chief:

Both sides made their final arguments Wednesday in the disciplinary hearing for a Carol Stream fire battalion chief who says his refusal to cover up negligence on the part of the fire protection district is the reason behind his suspension and potential termination, although district officials claim otherwise.

Joseph Gilles, who was hired by the Carol Stream Fire Protection District 19 years ago, was suspended in September 2013 after being charged with insubordination by District Chief Richard Kolomay for failing to sign a performance improvement plan. The district has cited the reasons for seeking Gilles’ termination as performance deficiencies, such as his weight and accusations he was sleeping at work.

Kolomay’s attorney, Karl Ottosen, said Kolomay went out of his way to help Gilles improve before he turned to a formal disciplinary process and instigated the improvement plan.

“In a paramilitary organization, people don’t have a choice whether to accept an order or not,” Ottosen said in his arguments. “Top-down orders have to be followed. You can’t pick and choose your orders. (Gilles’) plan was to refuse orders.”

However, Gilles’ attorney, Aldo Botti, says the termination hearing stems from an August 2012 choking incident in which a woman died.

At that time, a Carol Stream paramedic allegedly tried to intubate a choking 81-year-old woman at a party while food was still stuck in her throat, instead of first clearing the airway. Upon arrival, a second paramedic removed the blockage and transported the woman, Armida Nonneman, to a hospital, where she died three days later.

Botti has said the first paramedic, Carey Zabran, failed to follow protocol, and questions were subsequently raised as to whether the district handled the incident properly.

Kolomay instructed Gilles to conduct an internal investigation, after which Gilles recommended the paramedic be fired, Botti said.

Zabran was told to sign a performance improvement plan, and Gilles was told to oversee her completion of the plan, which he later said was satisfactory, although he still recommended she be terminated.

The paramedic eventually resigned from active duty with the district, and she now receives a non-duty disability pension. Gilles was asked to sign and complete a similar plan related to issues cited by Kolomay, Botti said.

“The PIP is unlawful; the PIP is vague,” said Botti, adding the plan is subjective, requiring the chief to decide whether Gilles passes or fails.

He said Kolomay has no authority to make those decisions.

Kolomay’s attorney presented his arguments to the Carol Stream Fire Protection District Board of Commissioners, focusing not on the August 2012 incident, but on Gilles’ refusal to sign the plan.

“Two paramedics have been totally discredited on that case; it has nothing to do with this case,” Ottosen said. “As long as a directive is given, an employee has to follow it unless it is illegal. There is nothing on PIP that is illegal. ”

Due to the volume of material the commission needs to review before making a decision, group deliberations in closed session will begin Wednesday.

The next public hearing is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Oct. 15, when the commission will disclose its findings.

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Carol Stream FPD conducts termination proceedings

The Carol Stream Fire District has initiated a termination hearing for one of their battalion chiefs.

The Daily Herald has been following this story and has an article from 2/12/14 about the opening of the proceedings:

A lawyer for the Carol Stream Fire Protection District says the charges leveled against Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles are “straightforward” — among them that he twice refused to sign a performance improvement plan, that “his peers do not trust him as a manager,” and that he twice fell asleep in meetings.

“Fire Chief Richard Kolomay has responded to Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles’ performance deficiencies since he’s become chief in 2010,” said Karl Ottosen, Kolomay’s attorney. “Lack of trust by his peers in his leadership abilities, hygiene issues, weight issues, communication issues.”

The termination hearing began Wednesday for Gilles, charged by Chief Kolomay for twice refusing to sign a performance improvement plan in what Kolomay’s lawyers have termed a “serious breach of conduct.”

“On Aug. 25, 2012, everything started to change for Joe Gilles,” said Aldo Botti, attorney for Gilles, during Wednesday’s proceedings. “For 18 years, Joe worked for your fire district and did an excellent job. You can’t deny his rights, whether the chief likes him or not.”

Gilles was the first witness called Wednesday. He confirmed under questioning that an evaluation from 2007 stated that he “needs to work to earn the respect of his peers,” and that his “uniform appearance was not up to acceptable standards.”

Gilles’ lawyers had made assertions that his weight remained essentially the same since being hired, but Gilles confirmed that his listed weight at time of application in 1995 was 240 pounds and his weight on a February physical was 361.

An email from Kolomay dated Sept. 10, 2012, directed Gilles to get specific questions answered by eight people responding to the paramedic call. Gilles sent a Kolomay a summary of his investigation three weeks later, stating that based on his review, the paramedic’s performance was below standards. Gilles recommended disciplinary actions for a lieutenant and two paramedics.

However, Gilles later confirmed that his report did not contain any recommendations to contact Central DuPage Hospital, where Nonneman died, the coroner’s office or Nonneman’s family with results of his investigation, which is contrary to previous claims.

Ottosen alleged that Gilles twice fell asleep during meetings in April 2013, including one time during an emergency operation meeting after flooding in the area, when the village’s police chief videotaped Gilles sleeping. Gilles was found “unfit for duty,” pending a sleep study.

The performance improvement plan, or PIP, which was presented to Gilles on July 27, cited three core issues from informal reviews, including that Gilles “lacks proper management skills,” “doesn’t garner the respect of his peers,” and his peers “do not trust him as a manager or leader.”

“A criticism exists that Battalion Chief Gilles does not create any level of expectations within his shift,” Ottosen said, reading from the PIP.

Gilles was ordered to report back on July 29 with the signed PIP or there would be formal termination charges. Gilles reported for work that day in a new uniform, brought in flowers and bagels for staff — but told Kolomay he wasn’t going to sign the PIP.

A letter from Kolomay on Aug. 3 gave Gilles three options — signed approval of the PIP, to “amicably separate from the district,” or to not sign the PIP, commencing termination hearings. Gilles did not choose an option, and in an Aug. 19 email, Kolomay explained to Gilles possible charges for termination and the option for a separation agreement.

Before the hearing, a motion was granted that testimony given, or evidence presented, related to the Aug. 25, 2012, paramedic call would be presented in closed session. Kolomay’s attorneys made the motion not to allow testimony about the incident in light of the pending lawsuit. The hearing resumes at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Another Daily Herald article from 2/15/14:

Robert Schultz said he never reported Joseph Gilles’ shortcomings as Carol Stream Fire Protection District battalion chief in close to four years serving under him, but he claimed the feelings of Gilles’ performance were a “nightmare” he carried from one firehouse to another.

“Four years ago when I was promoted as company officer I came into a shift that had worked with Battalion Chief Gilles for quite some time. They were exposed to all the things that were in his personal improvement plan for years,” said Lt. Schultz during an at times contentious back and forth with Aldo Botti, Gilles’ attorney. “As a new officer, I am not going to go to my bosses with the fact that he wears a dirty uniform shirt, the fact that he may eat like a slob, when he’s always late for roll calls, when he doesn’t teach us.

Schultz, serving as acting battalion chief while Gilles is suspended without pay, was the second witness called in Gilles’ termination hearing that resumed on Friday. Schultz said he first met with Kolomay to discuss Gilles’ performance on June 1, 2013, days after Gilles received an email from Kolomay that he was being put on paid administrative leave. Schultz said Kolomay was doing an “informal inquiry of command staff,” and Schultz was asked Gilles’ strengths and weaknesses.

The PIP was presented to Gilles in July, citing three core issues: “lacks proper management skills,” “doesn’t garner the respect of his peers,” and his peers “do not trust him as a manager or leader.”

Schultz testified that as a battalion chief Gilles “was very good at making sure the boxes were checked” but was lacking in several other areas. He said that Gilles’ appearance on shift was “poor,” the condition and color of his uniform were not up to standards, and his command on the scene “nonexistent.” He said he neither trusted nor respected him.

Schultz said that during meals Gilles “had a history of coughing on our food” and “spilling his glass of milk onto our plates,” and he said he had witnessed Gilles falling asleep during “several meetings.” “During one meeting I was giving the status report of another firefighter, he had his hands crossed, head tilted down, and his eyes were shut,” Schultz said. “I said, ‘I guess this meeting is over’ and walked out.”

Schultz, who was also on the Aug. 25, 2012, call, said he shared concerns that the call “wasn’t up to the fire district’s standards” with Gilles sometime before the end of that shift. Schultz said he knew Gilles did not relay the concerns to the deputy chief, gave it about a week, then went to the deputy chief himself.

Gilles was subsequently asked by Kolomay to investigate the call and said in testimony Thursday that Zabran’s actions “rose to the level of termination.” Only months later, after failing her own PIP, did Zabran leave the district. Gilles said he twice told Kolomay that Zabran’s alleged negligence should be reported to Central DuPage Hospital, which oversees the district’s Emergency Medical Services program, and that Kolomay said “he would take care of it.” But Gilles now believes the EMS director was never notified.

 thanks Dan

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Family files suit against Carol Stream Fire District

The Daily Herald has an article about a lawsuit filed recently against the Carol Stream Fire District.

A Carol Stream family filed a wrongful-death lawsuit Friday against the village and a former paramedic, claiming negligence in the choking death of an 81-year-old woman.

The lawsuit claims that on Aug. 25, 2012, the village “willfully and wantonly breached its duty” when Carol Stream Fire Protection District paramedic Carey Zabran, who is no longer with the district, responded to a call at a Carol Stream party involving Armida Nonneman, who was choking on food and could not breathe.

The suit claims Zabran initiated intubation while the food was still lodged in the woman’s throat, despite being informed by licensed off-duty paramedic and former Melrose Park Fire Chief Rick Beltrame that the food needed to be expelled or suctioned out before intubating.

It further claims Zabran was aware that “attempting to intubate a person with food still lodged in the airway can worsen the situation by pushing the food further into the airway.” Also, the paramedic failed to provide necessary treatment and to consult with other medical personnel in a timely manner, the suit alleges.

The woman was taken to Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, where she died three days later.

Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles, whose termination hearings began on Wednesday, claimed in October 2013 that his bosses were trying to fire him because he refused to participate in a cover-up of possible negligence by the paramedic — allegations attorneys for the fire district claim “have no validity.”

It was only when termination proceedings were being brought against Gilles that James Nonneman, a son of the deceased, said he learned of an investigation into possible negligence — 14 months after his mother’s death.

“Mr. Nonneman and his brother have been looking for the truth on this the entire time,” said attorney Paul McMahon, who is representing the family along with attorney Rick Murphy. “It’s become clear they were not told the truth. They’ve asked us to pursue this to get them the truth. If the truth ultimately leads to someone taking responsibility, that should happen, too.”

As for the amount of damages sought, McMahon said: “We won’t know until we get into the case what we would ask the jury for. There are very few cases for wrongful death that are less than $1 million.”

Fire district attorney Karl Ottosen said he would not comment on specific litigation, “but in general terms if it’s wrongful death with respect to district service, I think ‘disappointed’ would be the right thing to say.”

“In the near future, we’d expect the testimony of the Gilles trial to show there is no real basis for the lawsuit,” Ottosen said. “I do understand the family’s right to a lawsuit. From a legal standpoint, we will address the issue in court.”

“The first responder did not do proper procedures and essentially froze,” said John Botti, Gilles’ attorney.

thanks Dan

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