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Firing a Fireman for First Offense of DWI

According to an Austin Fire memo, at 8:50 pm on Saturday, May 10, 2014, Travis county deputies responded to a reported disabled vehicle blocking a lane in the 1700 block of Grand Avenue Parkway in Austin.  The car hit a curb and guard rail with enough force to bend the wheel assembly and break the right front axle. 

The deputy identified the driver as Austin Fire Department firefighter Mark Madison.  While speaking with Firefighter Madison the deputy detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage emitting from Madison's breath. Madison was also mumbling and difficult to understand, his speech was slurred, he was stumbling, almost falling down, and he seemed to be confused and disoriented.  When asked how much alcohol he had consumed that evening, Madison said "a few". Based on the odor of alcohol, general appearance and damaged vehicle, the deputy suspected Madison was driving while under the influence of alcohol when he damaged his vehicle.  Adison was taken to a nearby parking lot and given the opportunity to perform a set of Standardized Field Sobriety Tests.  Madison refused to participate in the SFST.  The deputies' in-car audio and videos of this encounter clearly demonstrate that Madison was intoxicated.  Based upon the totality of the circumstance, Madison was arrested for driving while intoxicated.  The criminal charge is still pending.

Madison was interviewed by the Professional Standards Office on May 30.  During that interview he stated that he arrived at a local bar (Down in Texas Saloon) at about 1 pm on May 10.  After consuming 10 to 12 cocktails, some containing vodka, other tequila, he left the club shortly before 9 pm.  When asked if he was intoxicated, Madison said, "I probably was."

The incident was aggravated by the fact that on November 22, 2013, the fire chief sent a memo to all fire department personnel entitled, "Alcohol Abuse Education."  The purpose of that memo was to inform all Fire Department Personnel that alcohol abuse by members of the Fire Department was a serious concern and her prior efforts, including temporary suspension of 10 days, were not having their intended and desired effects, to curtail alcohol abuse by department personnel, particular driving while intoxicated.  She advised all Fire Department Personnel that she was instituting an alcohol education awareness component as part of the Department's August-December 2013 continuing education program.  This memorandum also informed all fire department personnel that my usual and customary proactive of imposing a 10-day temporary suspension for driving while intoxicated was changing.  She officially informed all Fire Department Personnel that as of December 201, 2013, she was changing her disciplinary philosophy and any future first-time "driving while intoxicated" violation would result in disciplinary action, up to and including indefinite suspension.  Madison acknowledged his receipt of this memorandum and that he completed the required training.  Despite this warning, Madison operated his motor vehicle while intoxicated.  Based upon these facts, and given that Madison was formally on notice that indefinite suspension was a potential punishment for driving while intoxicated offenses that occurred after December 20, 2013, indefinite suspension is the appropriate disciplinary action.

By a copy of the memo, Madison was advised of his indefinite suspension and that he may appeal this suspension to the Civil Service Commission by filing with the Director of Civil Service within 10 calendar days after receipt of a copy of the memo.

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