Firefighter seeks reinstatement

HOLLIDAYSBURG — A Blair County judge is being asked to decide if a Hollidaysburg man was wrongfully discharged from membership in the Phoenix Volunteer Fire Department and if he is entitled to be reinstated.

Judge Daniel Milliron convened a trial-by-court Wednesday to begin taking testimony in a civil court dispute that Kelly Leydig of Hollidaysburg initiated three years ago.

Milliron, who took over the case three months ago, declined to delay Wednesday’s trial due to the unavailability of two witnesses the fire department wanted to call. But Milliron said he would permit the record to remain open so those two witnesses could testify later.

During Wednesday’s proceeding, Leydig said he initiated the lawsuit because he was wrongly dismissed from the department and wants to be reinstated.

When Leydig’s attorney, Thomas Farrell, asked Leydig if he could return to a department where he and others have been at odds over several issues, Leydig said yes.

“As far as I’m concerned, if the judge rules in my favor, I can walk in and leave this (dispute) behind,” Leydig said.

When Farrell asked Leydig why he wanted to have his membership restored, Leydig said: “I want to serve my community.”

Additional testimony and court documents indicate that Leydig and Fire Chief Tony Dibona had ongoing disagreements when Leydig was active in the department. They also indicate that Leydig had been accused of making disparaging remarks about the department and stated in front of fire department personnel that he wanted nothing to do with the department. Leydig said that wasn’t true.

The fire department has also accused Leydig of lax participation in department activities and included that as a reason for his discharge.

Under cross-examination by attorney R. Thomas Forr on behalf of the fire company, Leydig acknowledged that between 2009 and 2014, he participated in no fire department activities. But Leydig said that was because of his military deployments and holding two jobs.

To resolve the dispute, attorneys are referring Milliron to the fire department’s bylaws, which govern how the fire department is supposed to be managed, along with procedures and reasons for removing members.

No specific date was set for when the two unavailable witnesses will testify.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.