Convicted Savage Firefighter Is Barred From Station Work

Company Will Decide On Status As Member

March 04, 1992|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Staff writer

A Savage volunteer firefighter who was convicted of assault and battery has been told he is not allowed to work at the station, but can remain a member of the company.

After deliberating about a month, the county Fire Department has banned James Scott Botschen, 30, from responding to emergency calls or otherwise performing firefighting duties.

"He's restricted totally from participating in operational activities, to include emergency response, training activities and/or operation of any Howard County-owned vehicles," said Chief Donald Howell, Fire Department spokesman.

Howell said the decision on whether Botschen can remain part of the company is up to Douglas A. Levy, president of the Savage Volunteer Firefighter Company.

"At this point, Idon't want to comment on the specific decision," Levy said. "We're considering our options."

The decision has caused concern among volunteer firefighters who worry different standards are used to judge volunteer and career firefighters.

Levy said Ernest Foster, Savage fire station chief, was physically assaulted by a career firefighter several months ago, but the career firefighter is still there.

"We're concerned that the standards be applied across the board," he said. "In our case, we're particularly concerned because we've had incidents involving other personnel, not volunteers, where we don't think appropriate action was taken."

Botschen's lawyers have advised himfrom speaking about the matter, Levy said.

Initially, Botschen was not allowed to go out on emergency calls pending the outcome of hiscriminal case. Botschen received an 18-month suspended sentence, a 72-day credit for time in jail, a five-year probation sentence and a 100-hour community service project.

Botschen was convicted of assault and battery -- a misdemeanor -- in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in January. He had initially been charged with second-degree rape and a fourth-degree sexual offense after a 22-year-old Olney woman was foundcovered with blood and walking down Route 198 near the Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Police said the victim suffered severe swelling of her face and eyes after being beaten and kicked.

The county Fire Department Friday decided Botschen had violated the code of conduct forvolunteer firefighters. The code -- established three years ago -- lists a number of conduct violations that could permanently remove or suspend volunteer firefighters from operational activities. Among theviolations is a criminal conviction or evidence to indicate criminalactivity, which includes -- but is not limited to -- arson, false alarms and bomb threats.

"As of this moment, there's no reasonable cause to rescind (the decision)," Howell said. "This decision is in place until further notice."

Howell said about a half-dozen other volunteer firefighters have been dismissed under the code of conduct for theft, arson and other criminal violations since the code was adopted in 1989.

Some career firefighters from the Savage Volunteer Fire Company have been concerned for their safety and others say they are uncomfortable working with Botschen, according to Sean Kelly, president of the Howard County Professional Firefighters Association.

Career firefighters raised the safety issue at a meeting last month, when they asked Kelly to discuss their concerns with Darl R. McBride, director of the county department.

Levy scoffed at the idea that Botschen would be a danger to other firefighters. "Scott was commendedby the Howard County Council for best performance two years ago," hesaid. "He was cited because he saved a life.

"We would not permitanyone who was a potential threat to continue in operations," said Levy, a volunteer firefighter himself. "We work in the same fire station, on the same fire engine and on the same ambulances as all the other members."

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