Crime - Sacto 911

Metro Fire examines whether employee said illegal immigrants good for target practice

A post by Facebook user Don Martin suggesting that illegal immigrants be used as target practice has spurred a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District investigation.
A post by Facebook user Don Martin suggesting that illegal immigrants be used as target practice has spurred a Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District investigation.

The Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District is investigating claims that an employee allegedly published offensive posts on his personal Facebook account.

In one of the posts, published on Aug. 28, a Facebook user named Don Martin wrote about integrating the border wall with prisons. He said military training compounds and private shooting ranges should be placed nearby for citizens to “hone their skills.”

“Our tag line: Illegal Immigrants Welcome … We need the target practice,” the post said.

In another post this month, Martin quoted his wife comparing anti-Donald Trump protesters to the film “Planet of the Apes.”

Screen shots of the posts surfaced last week on a Facebook page for local Trump protesters, prompting complaints and the inquiry by Metro Fire.

Keith Jouganatos, a 23-year-old Sacramento State student studying journalism, shared the screen shots after he got them from a friend. He said he noticed Martin’s profile included a photograph of a firefighter and listed the fire district as an employer.

Jouganatos said the Facebook posts were “a slap to the face” to illegal immigrants and the protesters, some of whom are African American.

“I was in shock when I read this stuff,” Jouganatos said. “He’s a member of the community, he works for the Fire Department and he’s in a position of power.”

Metro Fire spokesman Brian Gonsalves said the department has initiated an investigation into the Facebook posts but could not comment further.

In an emailed statement, Metro Fire would not confirm whether the Facebook posts or page were connected to any employee. The department also would not comment on internal personnel matters.

However, the department said, “Metro Fire does not condone statements which may be perceived as threatening or discriminatory towards members of the public we serve.”

Transparent California, a salary data website run by a fiscally conservative think tank, lists Donald Martin Jr. as a fire engineer working for the district in 2015, receiving $174,482 in pay and $61,374 in benefits.

Efforts to reach Martin were unsuccessful. Don Martin’s Facebook page appears to have been deleted or made private by Wednesday afternoon. A LinkedIn page for Don Martin of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District also has been deleted.

The Sacramento News & Review, which first reported on the posts last week, said an unnamed Metro Fire employee confirmed Martin was employed at the department. The News & Review also said that Martin removed the Facebook posts after the publication contacted him.

The Fire Department launched its investigation after a news story appeared, Gonsalves said. There is no timetable for the inquiry.

When asked if there was a code of conduct prohibiting employees from posting political messages on social media, Gonsalves said that the department has provisions but could not elaborate. He declined to share the district’s policies and procedures, saying they were internal documents.

“We don’t discuss disciplinary issues because of the employee’s privacy,” he said.

A 2013 agreement between the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District and the Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522 Union outlines “inexcusable discourteous treatment of the public while on duty, or while off duty and identified as an employee of the District” as a cause for disciplinary action. Poor behavior that discredits the fire district, or the employee, is also listed a reason for the department to take disciplinary action.

Local 522 did not reply to a request for an interview Wednesday.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets