- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A Navy veteran who worked at a hotel outside St. Louis said he was fired from his job after posting pictures on Facebook that showed dozens of Homeland Security vehicles parked in the hotel’s garage.

Mark Paffrath saw the vehicles Thursday at the Drury Palza Hotel in Chesterfield, as the St. Louis area braces for a grand jury decision on whether to indict the police officer who fatally shot 18-year-old Michael Brown, a local Fox affiliate reported.

The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service confirmed that the vehicles belonged to them, but refused comment on why they are in town, the station said.

“It was very odd that there was a bunch of Homeland Security cars there,” Mr. Paffrath said. “I was shocked and took a picture and a short video and posted them to Facebook with the status update, ‘What are these vehicles doing here? I wonder if it has anything to do with Ferguson?’”

On Friday, Mr. Paffrath said he was called into his boss’ office and ordered to take the pictures down. He said he deleted the photos and continued working as usual. But Saturday, Mr. Paffrath said he was called in and fired by the hotel chain’s director of security.

“He called me a terrorist and said I dishonorably served my country for posting those pictures and the short video,” he told the Fox affiliate. “He gave me a threat that if I were to re-post the pictures that I would be locked up and have DHS knocking on my door and all that other stuff.”

Mr. Paffrath said management told him his actions jeopardized a $150,000 contract the hotel supposedly had with Homeland Security. The federal agency would not comment on that either, the Fox affiliate reported. Drury Hotels would only confirm that Mr. Paffrath no longer worked there.

“We do not publicly discuss confidential personnel matters,” Vice President and General Counsel Joseph Pereles said in a statement. “The safety and privacy of our guests and our team members has always been and will remain our top priority.”

Mr. Paffrath told the station the hotel’s decision was “definitely an overreaction.”

“I feel like they could have handled it better, I mean given us a security meeting possibly and given us details they were coming,” he said. “I had no clue they were even arriving here. And then I come and see these vehicles here. Obviously I’m going to take a picture, it’s not the normal thing we have 70-plus Homeland Security vehicles there.”

• Jessica Chasmar can be reached at jchasmar@washingtontimes.com.

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