17 firefighters disciplined for posing on Christmas billboard

They received punishments ranging from reprimands, suspensions and probationary periods

LANCASTER, Ohio — An unauthorized billboard with a "Merry Christmas" message has led to the discipline of nearly one-third of a fire department.

Eagle-Gazette reported that 17 firefighters were reprimanded from Lancaster (Ohio) Fire’s Crew 3 and a retired fire captain was banned from city firehouses after posing for a picture on a fire truck on city time during the holidays.

Firefighters paid for the billboard, which was put up Nov. 30, out of their own pockets instead of exchanging gifts last year. A few days later, city prosecutor Randall Ullom said the sign violated city rules and policies. It was removed Dec. 15.

The firefighters also failed to obtain permission from the fire administration to take the picture at the firehouse, according to the report.

"We have to take this seriously," Fire Chief Dave Ward said. "This is the city's money."

The crew received punishments ranging from a written reprimand, up to 48 hours suspension without pay and a 12-month probationary period. One unnamed firefighter said most of the crew admitted they broke city rules when they failed to ask permission, according to the report.

"I think it's a good thing that the city show appreciation to the residents, but in this day in time, we have to make sure everything is done appropriately following our guidelines," Interim Service Safety Direction Paul Martin said.

As a result of the billboard, Chief Ward is moving some of the firefighters out of Crew 3.

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