Alcohol use, property damage, and uncertainty about “on-duty”
NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas – Two New Braunfels firefighters who were paid to quarantine in April after possible exposure to the COVID-19 virus were suspended in late May after it was discovered they had bottles of vodka delivered to the hotel they were quarantined in, drank alcohol, and damaged hotel property, according to information obtained by KENS5.
Firefighters Satcher and Walderman and other members of their team responded to a call in April without the appropriate personal protective equipment. The suspension notes that they were both in violation of PPE protocols put out by the department at the end of March. There was no reporting about PPE for others on the call and if they were suspended.
Officials learned the individual to whom Satcher, Walderman and others had rendered aid had symptoms consistent with COVID-19.
Personnel who were potentially exposed to the virus were placed out of service and paid to quarantine, according to KENS5. Some of those quarantined chose to stay at a Hotel and had their rooms and meals paid for by the city.
According to records, Satcher and Walderman agreed to have drinks with a fellow firefighter, and Sacher had picked up two bottles of vodka delivered to the hotel by a another firefighter. Walderman admitted to consuming two mixed drinks while Satcher admitted to drinking three vodka cranberry drinks.
Documents for Satcher state he told the assistant chief he wasn’t sure if he was on-duty because he had the option to quarantine at home. Satcher stated he had previously attended training in which he could drink in the evenings, once training was over. Fire Chief Patrick O’Connell told Satcher the difference was that he was listed as being “on-duty,” whereas he was listed as “detached” for training.
Satcher was suspended for one day while Walderman was suspended for two days.
City Manager Robert Camareno told KENS5 that damage had been done to the hotel during the incident, prompting the investigation.
City Manager Camareno released the following statement,
“In early April, an incident involving New Braunfels Fire Department personnel occurred at a local hotel which resulted in damage to the facility. The City took immediate action and launched an investigation into the incident. Per City policy, the personnel were placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation. The investigation is ongoing and per policy, the City cannot comment on personnel issues. Pending the results of the investigation, disciplinary action may be taken based on the level of responsibility of each individual. The City moved quickly to work with the hotel to address the damage to their facility and the city continues to work on determining liability. This was an unfortunate situation but the City took the appropriate steps to address the incident.”
Camareno added, “”This is a confidential personnel matter related to an ongoing internal investigation and as such, these additional details must remain undisclosed at this time.”
The Herald-Zeitung reported that Camareno said the damage was water damage from an overflowing bathtub and was determined to have been caused accidentally.
“The city reacted quickly by immediately working with the hotel to reach a solution regarding repairs to their facility and to address the conduct of city personnel.”
Camereno said the city has provided about $19,775 for repairs to the hotel, with an additional $10,000 being paid through the Texas Municipal League risk pool.