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Fire captain appeals termination after arrest for domestic violence, gets reinstated

| April 3, 2023

NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (April 3, 2023) – The city fire department ended up bringing back the captain who got fired over domestic abuse allegations.

Matt Graham filed a grievance against through the firefighters union after his termination last July. It went to an arbitrator, who called for his immediate reinstatement with back pay and benefits in a decision handed down on March 20th.

City officials fired Graham after reviewing the report that led to him being arrested and charged with two counts of domestic violence. One eventually got dropped and the other bargained down to disorderly conduct, although the case was still pending when Fire Chief Jim Parrish notified Graham that disciplinary action was being considered against him.

The city defended the firing, claiming Graham broke the law, violated city policy, and engaged in conduct unbecoming of a firefighter. The arbitrator found that the city failed to meet its contractual obligations by not independently investigating the allegations or getting Graham’s side of the story. The union asked city officials to postpone his pre-disciplinary hearing until the charges were resolved so he could speak freely but that didn’t happen.

The arbitrator reviewed testimony from Graham as part of his review and concluded that the allegations amounted to a private family matter that got blown out of proportion. He wrote that the reinstatement was “absolutely necessary for the healing of Graham’s family and the morale of the Department.”

City Law Director Marvin Fete released a statement last Thursday saying the city would abide by the ruling but didn’t agree with it.

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