Firefighters Face Suspension Over Wedding Invites

| by Sean Kelly

Two Garfield, New Jersey, volunteer firefighters face suspension over their wedding invitation that was posted to Facebook and included a picture of their turnout coats.

Paul Mellor and Danielle Szep shared the photo March 17 via Szep's Facebook page, and the couple was informed an hour later that they were in violation of a new rule forbidding the use of department property on social media.

"Danielle didn’t know the protocol because it wasn’t clearly explained to us and then she immediately took it down," Mellor told the New York Post.

"This was a positive thing that was put on Facebook and I don’t believe we should have been ridiculed. We put the picture up because we didn’t think it would be bad to post something positive about the department.”

Mellor attended a city council meeting on March 22 to express his concern over the threats of suspension. He told the council that he wished to file a complaint against fire chief James Kovacs, Sr.

"I take time out of my 48 to 60 hour work week to volunteer my time to answer fire calls, participate in fundraisers and to serve the city of Garfield," he told the council, reported.

"Like many other members of this department, I show great pride in this department and it makes me proud to post pictures of the [fire] engine and of fellow members on social media in the most positive way I can. It's unfair that James Kovacs Sr. takes that right away from me and other members of the department who volunteer their time and effort and feel that they have to walk on eggshells and constantly be afraid of suspension."

Mellor insisted that he and his wife-to-be would be taking pictures of the wedding and sharing them to Facebook regardless of policy. Their special day would, he said, include the fire engine, their turnout coats and photos of other members of the department.

"I will post the pictures on social media for all of my friends and family to see, and this is not to be spiteful to the rules, but to show that I have so much pride and joy of being a member of this department. It's an honor to have them part of our special day," he said.

Following Mellor's speech, a group of 30 fire department members present at the meeting gave him a standing ovation.

"To criticize anyone on Facebook should not be permitted but something positive like wedding pictures should be," Councilman Louis Aloia said. "A wedding is what we want people to see. If we lose our volunteers, run for the hills because we will be bankrupt."

Is the potential suspension of the firefighters over their wedding invitations justifiable?
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