A Milford firefighter faces firing due to extended absences that may be related to a claim of post-traumatic stress disorder. The issue is expected to come up at the July Fire Commission meeting.
The Milford Fire Commission on June 18 tabled discussion about firing Milford firefighter Raul (Rico) Benavides-Espinal until his newly hired lawyer could gather information about the case.
Benavides-Espinal’s termination was the only new business item on the agenda that night and was expected to be discussed in executive session.
But attorney Daniel P. Hunsberger, with Maurer & Associates PC in Ridgefield, told the commissioners that he was just retained that day to represent Benavides-Espinal and asked that the matter be continued to next month’s meeting. The commission agreed to his request.
Fire Commission Chairman Kevin McGrath couldn’t say much prior to the meeting because it is a personnel matter, but he did say that Benavides-Espinal has “been out of work a long time.”
Benavides-Espinal filed a worker’s compensation claim citing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on June 11, according to Richard Eighme, communication and legislative program manager for the State of Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission. The claim is at the beginning of the process, and the course it takes before being approved or denied depends on factors including whether the claim is challenged, Eighme said.
Hunsberger could not confirm if Benavides-Espinal’s pending termination is related to PTSD. “I don’t think that’s the issue,” he said after the fire commission meeting.
Later in the week Hunsberger said he will be looking at his client’s contract as well as state and local statutes to see if they will protect his job.
In 2016, among his firefighting tasks Benavides-Espinal was in charge of the holiday window artwork on the front of the firehouse that has over the years become a tradition for the department.
Benavides-Espinal was at the Fire Commission meeting June 18 night but declined to comment at this time on the advice of his attorney.
According to the City of Milford website, the next Fire Commission meeting is at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at fire headquarters.