It has been a while since I posted about the latest drama at the Hartford Fire Department, so I guess it is time.
I continue to get phone calls appreciative of the information and coverage I have provided regarding the Dan Nolan firing. Initially, I realized that Chief Nolan was very well liked at the Hartford Fire Department both as a firefighter and Iraqi veteran, and was (and still am) very suspect of the motives surrounding his termination. I received a large amount of calls alleging that Nolan's firing was only the tip of the iceberg as far as questionable matters occurring at Fire Headquarters. I originally thought that it was potentially "sour grapes" by people supporting Nolan, but the facts and documents have supported their allegations. Whether it was Firefighter John Thomas and his hit and run evading, Lt. Gregory Simon and his arrest for theft of utilities or Firefighter Dion Hightower and the search of his home and his arrest on Child Pornography charges. Some of these incidents , as well as the next one I'll outline here, really seem to add credibility to Nolan's argument that part of his problem was that he refused to turn a blind eye and overlook less than qualified and less than credible persons being pushed through the Fire Academy as Hartford Firefighters. Currently I am waiting for information on FOI requests into several of Hartford's latest hires and academy recruits as well as disciplinary and suspension information for the Department. One incident I am waiting on involves a recruit from the last class , who after returning from a fire call punched a fellow firefighter in the mouth, knocking out a couple teeth and receiving an 89 day suspension. Only a suspension in light of a policy that apparently outlines a "zero-tolerance" policy for workplace violence.
The following outlines the stellar career of recent recruit and probationary Hartford Firefighter Henry Biffle. Biffle, 46 years old, was hired by the Hartford Fire Department in May of 2008 as a probationary Firefighter. Although it doesn't appear that much is currently done as far as selecting qualified applicants from the documentation received other than a basic background check, traditionally a persons prior work experience might raise red flags. In the roughly 14 years prior to his hiring as a firefighter, Biffle rotated through at least 24 jobs, depending on which version of his application you choose to use. Both of his applications are below, one the original Human Resources application that list different previous employers than the second application titled "Hartford Fire Department Application for Firefighters", also below. But even Biffle's basic background check by the Hartford Police Department raised issues of arrests in 1996 and 1997 for Assault, Threatening, and Violation of a Protective Order, not necessarily dis qualifiers, but again, something that should typically raise a red flag. (Biffle's background check below also). Biffle eventually made it through the Hartford Fire Academy and was assigned to Engine Company 15 at Fairfield and New Britain Avenues. According to sources, Biffle's performance was less than acceptable to his immediate supervisor, Captain Theodore Borowski. Biffle received "counseling" for several incidents during his probationary period (copies of those available are below).On December 17, 2008, Biffle's immediate supervisor, Captain Borowski completed the City of Hartford Probationary Employee Performance Evaluation form (copies below). Although Borowski wouldn't comment because it is a personnel matter, the original form he filled out was altered after he submitted it. The box that he checked off was that Biffle's performance was less than satisfactory, but somewhere along the line that box was crossed out and the "satisfactory" box was checked, apparently not by Captain Borowski. The end result of the "unsatisfactory" assessment could have meant Biffle's termination from the Department or requiring him to re-attend the Fire Academy. The altered document was signed by Assistant Chief Michael Parker, Assistant Chief Anthony Milner and finally Fire Chief Charles Teale. This altered document was submitted to the Personnel Department and time and date stamped as an official document April 28, 2009, almost four months after Borowski checked off the less than satisfactory box on the form. Apparently somewhere along the line when word of the altered document began to circulate, a new Performance Evaluation form was generated and, according to sources, pressure was put on Captain Borowski to sign the second, unaltered form. Again, according to sources, Chief Milner made several attempts to have Borowski sign the altered form, even going so far as going to Engine 15 instructing Borowski to sign the form and eventually leaving a copy for Borowski to sign.
Captain Borowski's inclinations that Biffle was not prepared to be a Hartford Firefighter were apparently confirmed on January 26, 2009. After exiting a building from a structure fire, according to Fire Department sources, Biffle failed to remove his breathing apparatus facemask, contrary to Academy training and standard procedure. The mask fogged up due to the cold air, and in his full gear with a fogged up face mask, Biffle failed to see a patch of ice, slipped and broke his leg. According to documents received through an FOI request, Biffle's doctor cleared him to return to work on June3, 2009 "without restrictions". Although Biffle's doctor felt he was ready. apparently Biffle had different ideas and informed Captain Borowski that he felt he was unable to return to work. Apparently Chief Milner agreed with Biffle rather than the medical professional and instructed Deputy Chief Mahoney to order Captain Borowski to consider Biffle off on injury until further notice. Apparently Biffle is still out injured, although the Hartford Fire Department won't confirm this.(the text of the injury memo as well as other counseling incidents are below)
Although there are still many more questions than answers as to how discipline is applied at the Hartford Fire Department, one possible answer is listed on the reference page of Biffel's job application below.
If you have additional information or details on additional incidents and don't wish to post them directly here, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will certainly look into them. All information is kept in strict confidence.
BIFFLE ALTERED EVALUATIONS
Biffell Borowski Eval 1 and 2
BIFFLE POLICE BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Biffle Hpd Background
BIFFLE COUNSELING MEMO'S
Biffle Write Ups
BIFFLE CITY APPLICATION AND WORK HISTORY
Biffle Hr Application
BIFFLE HFD APPLICATION
Biffle Hfd Application