Reporting Bob Roberts
CAROL STREAM, Ill. (CBS) – A fire department battalion chief in northwest suburban Carol Stream has claimed he is being fired, because he refused to participate in a cover-up stemming from the death of a woman 14 months ago.
Battalion Chief Joseph Gilles said his investigation determined that a paramedic did not do her job the night she responded to a call about an 81-year-old woman who choked on food at a family party, and even turned down an offer of help from Melrose Park Fire Chief Rick Beltrame, who has paramedic training, and was attending the party.
Additional Carol Stream paramedics, dispatched to the scene, were able to dislodge the food from the woman’s throat, but she died at Central DuPage Hospital without regaining consciousness.
Gilles claimed his problems began when Carol Stream Fire Protection District Chief Richard Kolomay told him to cover up what happened, and to flunk the paramedic, who had been placed in a personal improvement program, no matter how well she did, so she could be fired or forced to resign. Gilles said the paramedic passed the program, so he refused to fail her, and told the chief to make a truthful report to the DuPage County coroner’s office. He said that is when his own problems began.
“Everything was to be kept confidential and quiet due to fears of a lawsuit,” Gilles said.
Gilles said he had a clean record until that time. A three-page misconduct complaint says that Gilles was hired Sept. 1, 1995; promoted to lieutenant March 16, 2005; and promoted again to battalion chief on Nov. 1, 2008. Gilles was suspended, with pay, in July, but said he learned Wednesday that his status had been changed to unpaid without his knowledge, and that he was being paid only until his accrued vacation and sick time is used up.
He has been accused of disobeying orders, of engaging in conduct that could destroy public respect for the department, and of insubordination for refusing to submit to a personal improvement program he considers rigged.
“He has a stellar, excellent reputation,” said Gilles’ attorney, Aldo Botti. “Because he insisted that the chief notify the hospital, the coroner and the family of the negligence (on the part of the paramedic) he believes he is being persecuted.”
In addition, Gilles said, Kolomay allegedly told Gilles to quit teaching emergency medical technician and trauma classes at the College of DuPage, even though Kolomay himself continues to teach part-time.
Gilles said he had been teaching in his spare time at the college for 12 years and that it had never before been an issue.
Botti said he did not believe the choking victim’s family had been notified of the controversy as of Thursday. The paramedic involved in the original call eventually resigned.
Gilles faces a termination hearing Dec. 2, at 5 p.m. He said it is the first in the 66-year history of the department. He said if he is fired, he believes he would be unable to find a similar job elsewhere.
WBBM is seeking comment from Chief Kolomay through his attorney, Karl Ottosen.