An Oak Grove resident has started a petition online to reinstate an Oak Grove volunteer firefighter who was recently let go by the mayor; however, Oak Grove Mayor Theresa Jarvis is standing by her decision.
According to Eagle Post archives, volunteer firefighter Richard Lestienne Jr. was told to return his pager and other equipment Aug. 7 to Oak Grove Volunteer Fire Chief Bill Johnson after Michael Workman, the city’s emergency medical services director, was directed by mayor Jarvis that Lestienne was to be removed from the department.
The reason he was fired was not disclosed.
According to Jarvis, Oak Grove firefighters are considered non-paid city employees, and because they are city employees, she has the authority to hire and fire individuals at-will, she said.
After hearing the news of Lestienne’s removal, Keith Ehman Jr., media director at Oak Grove Community Cares and lead technician at U.S. Infrastructure Company, felt he should start up a petition to give the people of Oak Grove a voice in the removal of Oak Grove fire department’s top responder.
“The idea to start the petition was to bring recognition to the (Oak Grove City) Council that the people of the city want him on the force as a volunteer,” Ehman said. “I felt that the manner that he was let go wasn’t right and with really no explanation as to why.”
Ehman began the petition Aug. 19, just two weeks after Lestienne was let go. As of press time, the petition had 274 signatures online out of its 1,000 signature goal.
“I’m happy with that number, I think that’s a great number to have, especially in the few days that it’s been up,” Ehman said. “Getting 300 signatures would be phenomenal, but just seeing that we are gaining traction on it is great.”
Ehman shared that after hearing the news that Lestienne was let go, he was outraged. He said there was no reason given for Jarvis’ decision to terminate Lestienne other than he was not a good fit for the department. However, Ehman feels that Lestienne’s record shows he is a great fit.
“From my understanding, he was named top responder last year. He was a top recruit. He carries certifications in CPR and CPR training and has a license to drive the engine,” Ehman said. “That to me tells me that he is a great fit.”
Ehman plans to take the petition to the Oak Grove City Council meeting Tuesday, but not before going out and attempting to get physical signatures to add
see firefighter/page a5
to the online petition.
Jarvis said she stands by her decision, and no number of signatures online or written will sway that decision. However, she is interested in knowing how many signatures are actually Oak Grove residents.
“If the petition came to my desk, I would have to review and go from there,” Jarvis said. “I would like to see how many of those signatures are actually Oak Grove residents. I don’t know how many of them truly are. But, I stand by my decision of what I did.”
Since the Eagle Post initially reported the termination of Lestienne, Jarvis shed some new light on why she made the decision to remove him.
“He was not a good fit,” Jarvis said Tuesday before adding, “It was a violation of the personnel handbook that occurred and brought me to that point.”
She would not disclose what that violation was, saying she has to defend the city. Jarvis said that if a lawsuit is brought against the city for his termination, it’s easier for the city to defend itself without disclosing the reason for termination, deferring to the mayor’s at-will authority.
No lawsuit has been filed against the city at this time.
Jarvis also added clarification to concerns that Lestienne was required to receive a written notice and explanation for his removal.
Jarvis said that as a volunteer employee, she is not required to give him a written notice, adding that if he was a paid city employee, he would be required to receive one.
“They are considered an employee and operate under our tax ID number, and there’s a tax that supports the department. That’s how they operate, under that tax, but because he is a volunteer, we do not have to give him a termination letter,” Jarvis said.
Ehman said Oak Grove residents with any questions regarding the petition can contact him through Facebook.
“The more names and more signatures, the better,” he said.
To sign the petition, visit https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/reinstate-lestienne or contact Ehman through Facebook; he will send a link to the form so it can be signed.
Reach Avery Seeger at 270-887-3236 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AveryNewEra.