Middletown firefighter on paid leave amid investigation since March, city won’t say why

Middletown firefighter on paid leave amid investigation since March, city won’t say why
Published: Aug. 16, 2022 at 4:38 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 16, 2022 at 6:27 PM EDT
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MIDDLETOWN, Ohio (WXIX) - A Middletown firefighter has been on paid administrative leave for the past five months amid an investigation “into matters related to (his) employment,” according to city records, but city leaders have repeatedly refused to say why.

Brian Mariano, a firefighter since 2019, was put on leave on March 11 and ordered to stay at home during work hours, according to a letter emailed to him from the Middletown Division of Fire.

That leave is still in effect as of Tuesday, according to City Manager Paul Lolli.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office opened an investigation related to the Middletown Fire Department on March 16, FOX19 has confirmed.

“You are hereby placed on administrative leave with pay, effective immediately, pending further investigation into matters related to your employment,” reads the letter to Mariano from the fire department.

“You are immediately suspended from any and all work duties. You are not authorized to undertake, and may not engage in, any activities on behalf of the City of Middletown (”the City”) unless specifically instructed to do so by me. You may not represent to others that you have any authority to act on behalf of the City. During this period of administrative leave, you are directed to remain at home and provide us with a telephone number where you can be immediately reached during your normal work hours.”

The letter orders the firefighter to stay away from city-owned or used property, relinquish city keys, fobs, passwords and codes and return any city-owned property.

The paid administrative leave and orders associated with it will remain in place until the city issues written notice to him otherwise.

“Please note that this administrative leave is not a disciplinary action or adverse employment action,” the letter from the city reads.

Middletown officials including Lolli, the city’s former fire chief, have been tight-lipped about why Mariano was removed from active duty.

A city spokeswoman, Missy Knight, and an attorney with an outside law firm who works on behalf of the city, Brodi Conover, have both made it clear to FOX19 NOW that in general “the city” doesn’t discuss the existence or nature of investigations and “the city” doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

The city also is only required to respond to requests for public records, according to Conover.

Overall until recently, the firefighter’s job performance reviews have been good, according to his personnel file.

He received a “Middletown Extra Mile Award” in July 2019 Lolli, the former fire chief who now is the interim city manager, nominated Mariano for the performance of his duties, outstanding assessment and treatment of a critically ill pregnant patient. “Thank you for a job well done.”

However, Lolli recommended earlier this year the firefighter be suspended for 24 hours for failure to report for a burn training session with new hires at the Cincinnati Fire Department training facility on Feb. 9, according to letter in his personnel file.

Mariano was unhappy with the assignment for the training that a captain gave him on Feb. 8, according to Lolli’s letter and failed to show up for training the following day.

“While the circumstances surrounding why you failed to show up for this obligation are concerning, you should understand that your actions and behaviors of February 8th are deeply disappointing and will not be tolerated. Furthermore, your actions and behaviors on February 8th at the training sessions were a complete failure of good behavior expected of a Middletown Firefighter. You were insubordinate to a supervisor and your actions led to neglect of duty, misfeasance, malfeasance, and nonfeasance.

“Essentially, your actions (and lack of) and behavior appear to stem from your unhappiness with the assignment for the training that you were given by Training Captain Verdin. In the future, if you have differences with training officers or leadership of this Division about an assignment, approach them at the appropriate time and discuss it with them in an appropriate manner. To act with negative behavior and an unprofessional attitude is unacceptable.

“Your behaviors on February 8th resulted in creating an unsafe training ground conditions putting all personnel at risk of injury. Furthermore, your failure to report on February 9th left the training department with an instructor short thereby resulting in the necessity to make adjustments in the training evolution plan.

“FF Mariano, you have proven to be a good firefighter/paramedic for this Division,” Lolli continued. “You have the opportunity to progress to a leadership role in this department. I know you possess stronger character than the actions you displayed on February 8th and 9th. I’ve observed you doing a very good job during contact with the public and fire safety talks with school children for this Division. That’s the firefighter we want to see. Take this as a learning experience and do better in the future.”

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