Firefighter terminated after fatal hit-and-run will return to work

An arbitrator decided Edward Ackerman violated the fire department's code of conduct, but that a lengthy, unpaid suspension is punishment enough


By Chris Baker
Syracuse Media Group

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A city firefighter who was fired after being involved in a deadly hit-and-run will soon get his job back.

An arbitrator decided Edward Ackerman violated the Fire Department's code of conduct, but that a lengthy, unpaid suspension is punishment enough. 

Ackerman was fired 15 months ago and will not be awarded any back pay for that time. He's also been told that he'll be fired if he steps out of line again.

"The arbitrator determined that Firefighter Ackerman was guilty of violations of the rules and regulations of the Department with respect to being 'held accountable for their conduct while on or off duty; and the commission of an act which might tend to discredit the Fire Department,' " Union President Paul Motondo said in a statement.

At the time Ackerman was fired, the city did not provide a reason. Ackerman is covered by the firefighters union, which has a collective bargaining agreement with the city. Employees can only be fired if they violate that agreement.

Corporation Counsel Kristen Smith said Ackerman was fired for "engaging in egregious misconduct that brought discredit to the department."

Smith said the city stood by its decision to fire Ackerman and strongly disagrees with the arbitrator's outcome. It's unlikely, however, that a court would overturn an arbitrator's decision, so they will abide the decision.

"We remain deeply saddened for Seth Collier and for his family. Our thoughts and concerns are with them," Smith said in a statement. 

The city fired Ackerman in April 2017. Police had charged him with tampering with evidence in a fatal hit-and-run case.

Ackerman's friend Peter Rauch hit and killed 18-year-old Seth Collier on North Salina Street on March 21, 2017. Rauch later pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. He also admitted he was drunk.

Ackerman was in the car behind Rauch. Both men went to Pastime Athletic Club, where Ackerman was president. Ackerman then unplugged the club's security camera network, according to police. He was later charged with trying to delete security footage at the club.

A grand jury declined to bring felony surveillance tampering charges against Ackerman in January. Oswego County District Attorney Gregory Oakes, who was prosecuting the case, called Ackerman "heartless" and said he deserved criticism as a first responder for not stopping to help Collier.

Ackerman sought his job back after the grand jury decision.

Collier's mother, Lisa Purvis, learned earlier this year that Ackerman was trying to get his job back. She started an online petition asking that he not be allowed to return to work. More than 5,300 people have signed that petition.

Copyright 2018 Syracuse Media Group

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