Firefighter Employed by Board Member

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Firefighter Employed by Board Member
Source by berkshireeagle

Fire commissioner Tommy Marasciullo, whose swing vote helped spare two firefighters from losing their jobs last week, has used one of the firefighters as a subcontractor in his painting business for several years.

In fact, Marasciullo told the Times on Tuesday that he gave Lt. John Ferriero painting jobs during the four-month period when Ferriero was serving a paid suspension from the fire district.

Ferriero, along with firefighters Ed Falk and Tom White, was suspended with pay in August as Seminole County prosecutors investigated allegations that they had raped a woman at a firefighters convention in Altamonte Springs. The men said the woman agreed to consensual sex acts.

Although prosecutors said they lacked sufficient evidence for criminal charges, the firefighters weren’t fully exonerated: Spring Hill fire officials decided the three violated department policies regarding immoral behavior and sexual misconduct. And the men were given unpaid suspensions ranging from two to four weeks.

When the matter came before the fire board last week, commissioners Richard Martin and Darryl Hamilton said that punishment was too light. They voted to fire Ferriero and Falk, but were outvoted by the threesome of Gene Panozzo, Jeffrey Hollander and Marasciullo.

Marasciullo said that he has used Ferriero as a painting subcontractor several times during the past 10 years and that their relationship doesn’t constitute a conflict of interest.

“I don’t have no conflict or nothing,” Marasciullo said. “The (fire district’s) administration made a decision, and I went along with the decision.”

Others don’t see it the same way.

The woman whose allegations prompted the investigation said the greater conflict of interest with Marasciullo is that he is both a neighbor and a good friend to Ferriero.

“My personal belief on all of it is that it will take an act of God to get these guys removed from the Fire Department. And I don’t think the citizens of Spring Hill care,” said the woman, whose name is being withheld by the Times because of the nature of the allegations.

“If I was in Mr. Marasciullo’s position, I think it would be hard to vote against a friend and a neighbor and an employee.”

Commissioner Martin said that if Marasciullo has been doing business with Ferriero prior to the vote, “I would see it as a conflict.”

Former Fire Commissioner Bob Kanner, who faced conflicts of interest allegations while on the board, said Marasciullo’s relationship to Ferriero is more extensive than anything Kanner was ever criticized for.

“It’s my opinion that the two of them are too close for Mr. Marasciullo to be making governmental decisions regarding Mr. Ferriero,” Kanner said. “It puts a perception of impropriety in place.”

Marasciullo would not discuss the financial terms of his dealings with Ferriero. He said Ferriero’s payment was based on the size of the job.

“The man worked for me for 10 years. There’s nothing in the bylaws that says he can’t work for me,” Marasciullo said. “He can work for anyone he wants. It’s a right-to-work state.”

Ferriero could not be reached for comment.

Aside from Ferriero, Marasciullo said he has used firefighter union president Mike Rampino to do painting jobs for him.

Rampino, who stood before the commission to speak on Ferriero’s behalf last week, said that he had merely been assisting Ferriero on his jobs and that he never directly worked for Marasciullo. Even so, Rampino said it has been several years since he has done such subcontracting work with Ferriero for Marasciullo’s company.

Fire Commission Chairman Jeffrey Hollander said it’s common knowledge around the fire district that Marasciullo has used firefighters, including Ferriero, for painting jobs.

“I don’t personaly see it as a conflict,” Hollander said. “But if there is enough interest in whether that is a conflict, it can certainly be put before the ethics committee in Tallahassee.”

Martin wanted Ferriero and Falk fired _ rather than just suspended _ because of their leadership posts within the union and the district. Men in their jobs set examples for the rest of the department.

Yet Falk announced Tuesday that he is resigning as the union’s vice president, according to Rampino. That follows Ferriero’s decision in November to not seek another term as union president, a post he held for 10 years.

It also comes less than a week after Martin made it known that a videotape shot by the woman who made the rape accusations contains sexually oriented comments by several firefighters while on duty.

That video has yet to be made public.

_ Robert King covers Spring Hill and can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rkingsptimes.com.