SPOKANE VALLEY, Wash. - After serving 17 years as a Spokane Valley Firefighter, Captain Jon Sprague received in Wednesday's mail his official letter of termination.
It all stemmed from the content he wrote in emails to fellow firefighters. Two years ago Sprague started the Christian Firefighter Fellowship as part of a support group in Spokane Valley. The most efficient way for him to communicate was through email.
"It's not like I can just walk next door and talk to another employee about some of these things," said Jon Sprague, former Spokane Valley firefighter. "We have 10 fire stations and three different shifts. The only real way is to communicate is that way."
Sprague says the emails only went out to the 46 members of the fellowship and caused no harm. "We've had no complaints, hasn't disrespected the department," said Sprague. But Spokane Valley Fire Chief Mike Thompson says Sprague violated department rules by using taxpayer-funded email for personal reasons. Administrators gave him a direct order to stop, and after several acts of discipline and warning they had no choice but to fire him for insubordination. "All along the way we've given him a direct order, and he refused to do that," said Fire Chief Mike Thompson, Spokane Valley Fire Department.
However, Sprague believes the content in those emails is protected under the law and plans to appeal. He feels this is more personal between he and the Chief and what Sprague believes. "Never had been disciplined in the past. Everything seems to revolve around just those emails and the Christian content," said Sprague. "He can stand at the station, hand out fliers, we don't have a problem with that. He just can't use department funded systems to do what he wanted to do," said Thompson.