An administrative law judge has upheld discipline imposed on two firefighters in connection with a prank at a Bibb County fire station involving a masked man threatening firefighters.
Firefighter Christopher Hughes was fired following the Sept. 18 prank that targeted rookie firefighters. Sgt. Joshua Brewer was demoted to the rank of private and suspended 10 work days without pay.
Both firefighters appealed the discipline at a December hearing before Judge Robert Herndon.
In rulings issued Monday, Herndon wrote that the discipline for both men was appropriate.
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Neither was found guilty of violating a city guideline pertaining to “incompetent, negligent or inefficient” job performance, according to the rulings.
Herndon noted in his rulings that neither firefighter’s job performance was brought into question during the Dec. 14 hearing.
The firefighters were found guilty of violating policies regarding employee conduct and hazing. Hughes additionally was found guilty of violating a fire department policy prohibiting weapons from being carried into fire stations, according to the rulings.
Hughes has admitted furnishing a non-functional BB gun for the prank and setting off a firecracker to simulate gunfire.
The judge wrote that Hughes’ disciplinary history, including tardiness, being suspended for having a guest at the station at an inappropriate hour and a suspension for a DUI was factored into the ruling.
Hughes has said the DUI was reduced to a lesser offense.
Although Hughes has the right to appeal Herndon’s decision to Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, he said he doesn’t plan to appeal.
“It’d be a waste of time,” he said.
Brewer declined comment Tuesday.
Brewer has admitted he recorded the prank using his cell phone and later posted a video to YouTube. The video was intended to be visible only to certain users, but was inadvertently posted publicly.
Herndon wrote that Brewer showed poor leadership in willingly participating in conduct that “was a blatant violation” of the anti-hazing order.
Both men contended that their supervisor participated in the prank, and their punishment was too severe based on public scrutiny.
Although there’s evidence suggesting then-Capt. Stephanie Burke was involved in the prank, there’s no evidence that Burke ordered the firefighters to “do anything pertaining to the prank,” Herndon wrote.
Firefighter Jessie White and Burke, who also are shown on the video, also have appealed their discipline. No ruling has been released in their cases.
White was suspended for 10 days without pay. Burke was demoted to the rank of lieutenant and was suspended for 20 days without pay.
In total, eight firefighters were disciplined following the prank.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.