PRP firefighter suspensions related to Crusade events


by Joe Arnold

Posted on July 6, 2012 at 6:13 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 6 at 7:21 PM

PLEASURE RIDGE PARK, Ky (WHAS11) -- Eight Pleasure Ridge Park volunteer firefighters have been suspended, accused of drinking alcoholic beverages both at their firehouse on Manslick Road and at a downtown collection point during Crusade weekend, sources tell WHAS11 News.

Drinking during official fire department events or on fire department property is a violation of the department policies.

The suspensions have triggered the temporary closure of Station #5, 6902 Manslick Road. 

"The suspensions resulted from an investigation of policies and procedures of PRP fire protection district," PRP Fire Chief Vincent Smith said, "including standards for professional conduct."

Smith is stressing that the same level of fire service remains - with Station 5's territory covered by other PRP firefighters and - if need be - Louisville and Fairdale fire departments.

"The only thing I want to make sure is that the residents in that area understand the level of fire protection in their area will not be jeopardized," Smith said.

"It was related to the Crusade for Children," Smith disclosed to WHAS11 saying complaints were brought to his attention in early June. "It did deal with alcohol."

Sources tell WHAS11 that the firefighters are not accused of drinking during their appearance on the WHAS Crusade for Children telecast one month ago.

The results of an internal investigation are now in the hands of Maggie Neutz, the chairwoman of PRP Fire's Board of Trustees, who told WHAS11 she expects to decide within weeks whether probable cause exists to prompt disciplinary hearings.

Neutz was asked whether she is concerned that the suspensions related to Crusade weekend will taint PRP's stellar Crusade reputation.

The PRP Fire Department is repeatedly the top fundraiser for the Crusade.  This year alone, raking in more than $314,000.

"Anytime I think any of our firefighters or any members of our department does not uphold the professional conduct in any of the events we handle, and especially the Crusade for Children, that always concerns us," Nuetz said.

Yet, drinking during Crusade events is not a concern of Joseph and Linda Buckman - who say they have had no problems living next door to Station 5 for the last 28 years.

"No problem whatsoever," Joseph Buckman said, "because it's a Crusade thing and a celebration and that's part of it."

"As long as they don't get drunk," Linda Buckman added.  "As long as they don't get falling down drunk.  I know that after the Crusade they all gather over here and all have a good time and I've never seen anything bad out of it."

"They're out there doing a hard job," Linda added.  "And I think drinking a few beers is not going to hurt them."

"I think that we uphold a higher standard than most people," the fire chief explained, "especially when you're providing public service to our residents.  And I just really think at some point you have to draw the line and people have to understand that they have to abide by policies and procedures that are put in place."

Smith said he hopes the eight suspended firefighters eventually return to service.

WHAS Crusade for Children management was unavailable for comment.

The Crusade's Board Chairman Fr. Joe Graffis said he is unaware of the suspensions and any Crusade connection.  Until he hears more information, Graffis said he would reserve comment.