- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii (AP) - Court could be the next venue for a dispute over public criticism of the Hawaii Fire Department.

The Merit Appeals Board unanimously ruled that neither Ty Medeiros nor Steve Loyola were entitled to overtime and vacation pay both said they lost after being placed on leave, West Hawaii Today reported (http://bit.ly/1UqF1nU).

Loyola, now retired, and Medeiros were battalion chiefs when they sent letters of complaint to the Fire Commission and mayor. They said hurricane and tsunami emergency plans were insufficient and Fire Chief Darryl Rosario was putting lives and safety at risk.

They were investigated, and Rosario stripped their uniforms of badges and rank insignia.

While not finding in favor of Loyola and Medeiros, the board did express concern over the department’s internal and external communication policies.

Hilo attorney Ted Hong says he and his clients plan to take the dispute to court.

“This was a difficult case for the board to consider. It involved four full days of testimony and thousands of pages of documents,” Hong said. “The issues the board was facing have never been addressed by the county before. I think the board tried their best to navigate this difficult case.”

A department regulation places conditions on public criticism.

“No member shall publicly criticize or ridicule the department, its policies or the members . when such action tends to impair the good order or efficiency of the department, interferes with the ability of officers to maintain discipline or it’s made with reckless disregard for truth or falsity.”

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, http://www.westhawaiitoday.com

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