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New Norwalk firefighter let go after arrest in Milford

Ahmad Pasha, as shown in an August Norwalk Fire Department Facebook post.

NORWALK, Conn. – A Milford man has been terminated from the Norwalk Fire Department after only two days on the job as a firefighter.

Norwalk Fire Commissioners voted 2-1 to terminate Ahmad Pasha at Friday’s meeting.

The newly-minted firefighter finished his fire academy training on Dec. 7, Mayor Harry Rilling said at the meeting.

Pasha was arrested Tuesday in Milford and charged with disorderly conduct and threatening second degree. Pasha had a previous arrest record that was not discovered after he entered the academy, Rilling said.  

Recruits enter the academy “contingent upon certain things,” Rilling said.  Contingencies include a clear drug test, a criminal background check, and a test of physical agility.

“He was in the academy, unfortunately {it} took a very long time to get the criminal background. When we saw (the record of convictions)… we brought him in to discuss those. The state law is you can’t deny employment simply because of a criminal record.”

The court’s website shows that Pasha was convicted on May 16, 2017 of assault third degree and disorderly conduct charges.  The incident date was Oct. 18, 2015.  An Aug. 27 Norwalk Fire Department Facebook post announces “four newest firefighters,” one of them Pasha.

Milford Patch reports that Pasha is accused of threatening to kill a woman, in a domestic violence incident.

The Commission went into an executive session Friday for about a half hour before inviting a friend of Pasha’s in to speak on his behalf.  Norwalk Director of Personnel and Labor Relations Ray Burney and firefighter’s union president Billy Ireland were also present.  After another 10 minutes, the Commission asked the others to leave and discussed the matter for 25 minutes.

With the meeting resumed, Commissioner Larry Bentley said he was “unfortunately” and “reluctantly” moving to terminate Pasha.

Commissioner Oscar Destruge voted no.

“We’re sorry, but we feel in the best interests of the organization, this is the appropriate decision,” Rilling said to Pasha. “… We recognize the fact that you were a stellar performer. We recognize that you had fit in with the firefighters but we also feel that the organization has to prevail and we … feel that this is not over. We feel that we gave you an opportunity and then we find ourselves, as Commissioner Bentley said, here a few weeks later having to make this very, very difficult decision.”

Afterwards, Destruge, pastor of El Camino United Methodist Church, said he’s a person who believes in giving people a second chance.

Based on the reports from Pasha’s training and his two shifts as a firefighter, he was found to be “very committed and very focused on succeeding,” Destruge said. “Unfortunately there are some other events and conditions happen to interfere with that.”

Bentley declined to comment.

“We can’t take a chance that somebody’s issues will interfere with their ability to protect their brother and sister firefighters,” Rilling said. “When you come to work you need to be fully focused, ready to do everything and anything necessary to protect lives and property. The men and women of this fire department deserve only the best. They put their lives on the line every day and they need to be assured that their brothers and sisters are again, fully focused and ready to do what they have to do to be there to back them up, to have their back and to be there to save their life if necessary. So I personally didn’t feel that we could be confident that this individual would have that mindset.”

Once the Commission found out about the criminal record, they spoke to Pasha, Rilling said.

“You take into consideration the nature of the offense and the distance between the time it happened and the time you’re going to be talking about employment. We felt comfortable that sufficient time had passed and that he gave us plausible explanations as to what happened,” Rilling said. “He offered to extend his probation by three-four-five years if necessary because he felt so confident that he could move forward.

“We discussed that with the union, that was a discussion that was ongoing. Unfortunately, there was an incident this past Monday that made us think we had to make a decision now that is in the best interest of the organization.”

Rilling could not remember the last time a firefighter was terminated; a recent departure due to a drug bust was a resignation, he said.

“From this point forward, we need to ensure that before we put anybody into the fire service that we have all the information,” Rilling said. “It’s been a practice, not only in the police department, and the fire department, but other places where you hire contingent upon certain things. Now it’s made us rethink that.”

Asked Saturday why the Fire Department did not know Pasha had a record until he had already been hired, given that the information is available on the State judicial website, Rilling said the City “cannot begin many processes” until a conditional offer of employment is offered to a candidate.

“Also, the Commission interviews candidates presented to them in groups of ten or more. We ask them if there is anything in their background about which we should be concerned,” Rilling wrote. “Obviously we need to review the process to see if and how it can be improved.”

6 comments

Rick December 24, 2018 at 9:34 am

Steve Kobak wrote back in 2014”

Mayor Harry Rilling shook hands with Penna and said “Jason, I’m sorry.”

He stole from the fire dept after having 16 years in.

Memory loss with others who have been let go are common when your mayor.

Shame the the firefighter wasn’t given the chance to pay back the money the city invested in training. Its tough to form an opinion when all the facts are not reported.

I can no longer provide those facts here.

Steve Mann December 24, 2018 at 2:45 pm

Huh? Can’t start a criminal background check until an offer of employment is made? Like, er, uh, you have to pass it to know what’s in it?

Anyone else want to know what the “incident this past Monday” might have been?

Paul Passarelli December 24, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Does the term ‘inexcusable’ mean anything to anyone in the City’s personnel department? Because someone in that bureau clearly dropped the ball!

I can get a comprehensive report on a person in 15 minutes. Can a City personnel worker honestly claim that in all the time it took between the Fire Department’s offer to accept this guy into training and the commencement of the program they didn’t uncover his *conviction*???

It’s past time to get rid of the gross incompetence in City government!

Al Bore December 25, 2018 at 6:51 am

If we get rid of the gross incompetence in city government, there will be a lot of vacancies. Norwalk will probably get sued and this will cost the home owning tax payers money because once again someone did not do their job. This guy should have not been hired in the first place.

Scarlet ohara December 26, 2018 at 4:08 am

Typical Norwalk hr. Not doing their job. Does this remind anyone of the special education fiasco?

Yup, ANOTHER lawsuit under rillings watch.

Rick December 26, 2018 at 1:08 pm

The fire dept ought to save some money and buy some new hoses, after the fire last night on Lexington a quick review of equipment is needed.

Has any of the fire commissioners ever been firemen?

Staying in line with the article questioneing the system seems to be appropriate.

Why SNEW was called out for the fire will have to wait for a new article i guess..

Obviously we need to review the process to see if and how it can be improved.”

I think a top to bottom is needed before the next budget , firemen deserve better and so don’t the taxpayers.

Paul and Steve are right.

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