City appeals ruling that gave job back to Fla. firefighter-paramedic
The City of Orlando is arguing the decision was "explicitly based on a misunderstanding" of criminal charges filed against Joshua Granada
By Tess Sheets
ORLANDO, Fla. — The City of Orlando wants an arbitrator reinstated Orlando firefighter Joshua Granada to reconsider, arguing the decision was “explicitly based on a misunderstanding” of criminal charges filed against the firefighter, which prohibit him from returning to work.
Marc Sugerman, the city’s attorney, wrote in an Oct. 14 motion that the arbitrator failed to acknowledge that Granada was charged with two felonies after he recorded City Commissioner Regina Hill without permission while responding to a call at her hotel room in 2017.
Granada, who was fired after the incident, was rehired after a ruling last week by arbitrator James Stokes.
In his decision, Stokes wrote that Granada’s case was “thoroughly investigated by the Orlando Police Department and a criminal case was not even presented to the State Attorney’s Office,” leaving the case “squarely as a personnel/disciplinary matter," he wrote.
Instead of upholding the city’s discipline, Stokes imposed a 240-hour suspension, saying Granada violated a 2009 department memo saying firefighters were required to get permission from a supervisor before making any audio recordings.
At a City Council meeting last week, Hill admonished the arbitrator for “not having all the facts.”
Granada’s arrest was “evident in the record" and the firefighter told the arbitrator about the pending criminal charges against him during an arbitration hearing, Sugerman wrote.
The city’s motion asks Stokes to reverse his decision, arguing that, if he had not overlooked the firefighter’s criminal case, he “would have concluded that the City had just cause to discipline Mr. Granada."
Sugerman wrote that Granada is also ineligible to return to work under Orlando’s Civil Service Act, which prohibits anyone with pending felony charges from working as a firefighter. Granada entered a pretrial diversion program in July, in which the state agreed to defer his prosecution for a year. If he completes the terms of the program, including 100 hours of community service, his charges will be dropped.
Until Granada completes the program, the charges against him are still pending, the city said.
“[U]ntil Grievant has resolved his pending felony charges, he is not eligible to return to his position as a firefighter, nor he he eligible for any back pay, as he would not have been able to perform the duties of a firefighter while job-related felony charges were and are pending,” the motion states.
Stokes declined to comment on his decision when reached by phone Thursday, saying the case is still pending.
Citing the Civil Service Policy, the city requested that Granada not be awarded backpay if Stokes chooses uphold the firefighter’s rehiring.
“Once the felony charges were filed by the [State Attorney’s Office], [Granada] would have been suspended WITHOUT PAY, at least pending the outcome of the charges," Sugerman wrote. “Therefore, even if the Grievant is ultimately reinstated... the City respectfully requests that the remedy be clarified to preclude any back pay during the pendency of the felony charges.”
Granada’s crew was called to at a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel Aug. 27, 2017, where Granada said he encountered the commissioner and began recording because he “felt threatened” by her behavior, before stopping the recording when he learned who she was.
Granada said Hill was “belligerent,” while Hill said she was being “defamed.”
After his firing, Granada claimed he was being “targeted” by the Fire Department for breaking protocol to save lives during the 2016 massacre at Pulse nightclub and later seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. The agency denied Granada’s claims.
©2019 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)