Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teaneck Firefighter Suspended Once Again

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Teaneck Firefighter Suspended Once Again

Article excerpt

TEANECK -- A firefighter whose suspension for picking up a pizza in a firetruck sparked a years-long legal battle with the township is in trouble again.

Lt. Lad Bell, a 28-year veteran, learned this week that he will be suspended for three days when he returns to active duty in June after recovering from an arm injury he suffered on the job in February.

Department officials say Bell should not have hammered nails into the walls of one of the township's fire halls to hang historical photos because there is asbestos in the walls. Bell also received a separate notice reprimanding him for not giving Fire Chief Anthony Verley in-person weekly updates on his recovery as required by department regulation.

Bell, who lives 22 miles away in Ringwood, says he cannot drive because of the prescription painkillers he is taking and because his left arm is in a cast. The rule requiring him to report to the chief on his progress in person, he said, was last updated in 2003 -- a time before the introduction and wide adoption of smartphones. Bell said he has been in contact with Verley by phone.

Bell said the chief should have used his discretion to excuse him from the "antiquated" rule because he is not abusing the system. "I'll Facetime the guy if he wants," said Bell, referring to a video calling service on the Apple iPhone.

In an email, Verley said Tuesday that he could not comment on the matter because it involves a personnel issue.

Bell acknowledges he does not have the smoothest record with the department. He has filed two lawsuits against the department and township. In the first, he racked up $10,000 in legal bills over more than two years as he successfully challenged his suspension for using a firetruck to pick up a pizza out of his response area in 1998. In the second, settled in 2006, he and another firefighter alleged that superiors in the department had harassed them for their allegiance to another firefighter who had filed numerous whistle- blower lawsuits against Teaneck. …

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