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Aug 24, 2011 9:25 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Westhampton Beach Lifeguard Quits After Being Denied Permission To Respond To Fire Alarm

Sep 7, 2011 3:17 PM

For at least one former lifeguard, life is most certainly not a day at the beach.

Longtime Westhampton Beach lifeguard Jim Raynor, 28, who was employed part-time by the village for the past 13 summers, submitted his letter of resignation last Wednesday, August 17, following a highly publicized dispute with Westhampton Beach Mayor Conrad Teller. During their meeting last Thursday, Village Board members agreed to hire two new lifeguards—Chris Rothe and Seth Conrad—though they did not make any mention in public session of Mr. Raynor’s resignation. The new lifeguards will make $11.50 an hour.

In an interview this week, Mr. Raynor, who has volunteered with the Westhampton Beach Fire Department for the past seven years, said he quit his village post after he was not allowed to respond to a fire alarm on July 22, just before he was supposed to start his lifeguard shift at Rogers Beach. Mr. Raynor also said that, since the incident, he was demoted—he had served as a lifeguard captain for six years—and saw his pay cut by $3 an hour, from $17.25 per hour to $14.25 this summer. He said he also never received a 25-cent raise this year.

“It was the last straw,” Mr. Raynor said in a phone interview on Monday.

Emotion erupted at an August 4 meeting of the Village Board when Mr. Raynor’s father, Mark Raynor, a former deputy mayor a past chief of the local fire department, demanded to know why his son was not allowed to leave his post to answer the emergency call. The call—which turned out to be a false automatic alarm—occurred during his son’s break, he said.

“It was nothing. Even if I had gone, I would have been back in 10 minutes,” Jim Raynor said.

But Mr. Teller contends that a lifeguard cannot leave his or her post while on duty, even if it is to answer a fire alarm. On the day in question, the mayor estimated that about 200 children enrolled in a sports program at the Westhampton Country Club, as well as a number of other beachgoers, were on the beach at the time of the alarm. Beach managers James Carr and Brian Naughton stopped the younger Mr. Raynor from responding, according to Mr. Raynor.

Though the village does not have an official policy on the books regarding the issue, Mr. Teller said that, in light of 
last month’s event, he plans to create a rule stating that lifeguards cannot leave their posts to answer fire and ambulance alarms.

“The alarm came over the radio at approximately five minutes to 10—before the beach was technically open,” Mr. Raynor said. When he was told not to leave, Mr. Raynor recalled stating: “I said, ‘No big deal.’ And I didn’t go to the call.”

Despite his compliance, the managers contacted the mayor, who, in turn, wrote a letter to the beach managers instructing them that lifeguards are not allowed to respond to fire alarms while on duty, according to Mr. Raynor.

“He said I left while there were kids swimming,” he said, referring to the mayor. “But I never left and they weren’t in the water. I would never leave the way the mayor is making it seem, if I had a packed beach.”

He later added: “Anytime I respond to a call, I’m not jumping down from the stand and leaving. There was no one in the water—and there were other lifeguards there. I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”

Four lifeguards, including Mr. Raynor, were on duty that day, he said. He also disputed the mayor’s estimation regarding the number of kids at the beach at the time, stating that it was closer to 40.

Of the discrepancy, Mr Teller said this week: “Even if it was only five children, what in the hell is the difference?”

In addition to being demoted, Mr. Raynor said he was not given Sundays off, despite having a rotating schedule. Finally, Mr. Raynor said Mr. Teller told him he could not work more than 40 hours a week, though his colleagues were scheduled to work more than 40 hours in a given week.

“They make up all these rules just for me,” Mr. Raynor said. “It was everything,” he added when asked what prompted him to quit. “I’ve just had enough of it.”

When asked about the allegations raised by Mr. Raynor, Mr. Teller, who also volunteers with the Westhampton Beach Fire Department, declined to elaborate.

“It’s a personnel matter,” the mayor said. “He resigned. I would say that says it all.”

Though he acknowledges that there is no formal policy in place, Mr. Teller said Mr. Raynor has plenty of work to do on the beach when it comes to responding to potential emergencies. The mayor also noted that about 95 percent of the calls that the fire department responds to are not emergencies.

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Are you allowed to leave your regular 9 to 5 job to answer an emergency call? I think not, so why should a lifeguard be able to. Ridiculous.
By MartyMcDougal (24), Sag Harbor on Aug 24, 11 9:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Yes, most local VOLUNTEER figher fighters are, who work in the village. And your welcome.
By just breath (82), yuck on Aug 24, 11 9:57 AM
You really didn't know that volunteer firefighters/EMS leave their jobs to respond to emergencies? Did you think all the volunteers that respond to emergencies during the day were all unemployed? Pretty nieve statement. Yes our volunteers leave their jobs, families, dinners, etc ......at all hours, day or night....thats why it takes a special breed to volunteer that kind of service. You should try thanking them....oh and you are ridiculous
By BigL11946 (29), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 11 10:12 AM
Did you even think before you wrote this?
By bchgrl83 (52), Westhampton Beach on Aug 24, 11 11:46 PM
2 members liked this comment
There are some that do and some that can't. It depends on the job the person performs. Village/Town workers do. I'd like to think that if their job responsibility includes watching over someone's life, they wouldn't.

I don't think Mr. Raynor should have considered leaving. He had no way of knowing how long he would be gone and surely someone would have gone in the water. If he was that unnecessary, perhaps the number of life guards on the schedule at a time should be cut.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Aug 25, 11 10:03 AM
1 member liked this comment
What am I thanking you for? Your snotty attitude? Nope, no thanks.
By MartyMcDougal (24), Sag Harbor on Aug 25, 11 10:36 AM
You used the wrong form of "your" multiple times while arguing with this guy. Have a good day.
By WHBEMO (2), East Moriches on Aug 25, 11 4:54 PM
Correction, once, i think anyway.
By WHBEMO (2), East Moriches on Aug 25, 11 5:23 PM
Of course they leave- everything- to go to a fire- how do you think emergencies get taken care of? It's the post event behavior towards Mr. Raynor that really bugs me. Sounds like dirty pool where mere clarifying communication would have been enough. Pretty bad treatment in my opinion.
By louise (13), East Hampton on Aug 24, 11 10:17 AM
1 member liked this comment
Poorly handled all the way around. Our volunteer fireman and ambulance are on duty 24/7..and the numbers are dwindling. If there was an emergency at the next beach, as a captain he would have responded to that, leaving his stand covered by the rest on duty. Too bad they couldn't work it out. More to this than meets the Press?? Good luck.
By gansetteer (125), East Hampton on Aug 24, 11 10:30 AM
Mayor Teller's unresponsiveness to the allegations is self-serving. It would appear that Mr. Raynor was most unfairly penalized by an autocratic mayor over a trivial incident. At least, that is the perspective from his end.

WAS he demoted, reduced in pay, and discriminated against in work scheduling at the Mayor's dictate? Rather than a royal, "'We' decline to comment", the mayor should present his case.

This controversy really smells, and will smell worse the longer the mayor ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Aug 24, 11 10:39 AM
2 members liked this comment
I have been a volunteer, and I come from a family of volunteer firemen. In some cases for members of my family, they have had employers who allowed them to leave for a call, and others who have not. It is certainly not accurate to say that all volunteers leave their jobs, because they don't. I don't think that any volunteer should expect to be allowed to go on a call when they are being paid to do another job, especially in this case where the other job is keeping people safe. Imagine if there ...more
By purple75 (3), Sag Harbor on Aug 24, 11 10:56 AM
5 members liked this comment
Well said.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Aug 25, 11 10:04 AM
2 members liked this comment

More to this story than we know. Too bad he quit.
By auntof9 (159), Southampton on Aug 24, 11 10:59 AM
1 member liked this comment
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Aug 24, 11 11:24 AM
"The mayor also noted that about 95 percent of the calls that the fire department responds to are not emergencies."

What's your point here Mayor? Should our volunteers half-a$$ their response because chances are it'll be a non-emergency? Is there a magic crystal ball in your office that tells you which calls are emergencies?

As for not leaving the beach, I'm pretty sure I've seen Westhampton Lifeguards in a local deli over the years. Are deli runs allowed, but not emergency ...more
By DC (11), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 11 12:07 PM
The title of the article (in typical Lame Stream media fashion) is quite misleading. One would infer that because he was denied permission to respond to a fire alarm he quit. But after reading the article, it's clear that he quit after a demotion and other perceived "punishments". The lifeguard himself even says that he was ok with being told he was not able to respond.

Directly from the article:
When he was told not to leave, Mr. Raynor recalled stating: “I said, ‘No ...more
By Nature (2966), Hampton Bays on Aug 24, 11 2:16 PM
3 members liked this comment
Jimmy Raynor should be applauded for all that he brings to this community. He is a hard working man and is following proudly in his father's footsteps. The fact that such an issue was made out of nothing is ridiculous. Those men that called the mayor obviously had alterior motives against Jimmy. I am very disappointed in Connie's actions concerning this manner. Jimmy did nothing wrong. It's sad to see a good lifeguard go.
By Jessica713 (20), Easy Quogue on Aug 24, 11 6:59 PM
ok, let me get this straight. Mr. Raynor is a life guard which is a life safety position. A lifeguard sits at the beach and watches our children and all of us in the water to make sure no one drowns. The Mayor sends out a memo and states that life guards cannot respond to fire calls when they are on duty protecting the lives of our residents. Not only does that seem like a rational directive, it seems like a common sense directive that any reasonable person would follow without even being told. ...more
By angelo kametler (3), southampton on Aug 24, 11 7:33 PM
4 members liked this comment
IF you read the article, it says it was BEFORE his shift. I am assuming he has left before to respond and now its an issue? If he has been in the fire department for 7 years you cant tell me this is the first occasion.... and this happened after he was demoted and received a pay cut... its fishy.
By WHB19 (7), westhampton beach on Aug 24, 11 10:13 PM
The article says he was on his break. It also says that the beach wasn't "technically" open yet. Not sure how or why you'd have a break before the day started. He also said he'd have been back in 10 minutes. Unless he knew it was a false alarm before he left how would he know he'd be back in 10 minutes?

Lots of facts missing.
By bb (922), Hampton Bays on Aug 25, 11 10:08 AM
I see the Fire Chief who works in the DPW as a mechanic all the time leaving to respond to calls and even takes police vehicles to go to the alarms when he i'snt a cop! Mayor needs to look where the real problem is! And Mayor Teller has some never saying 95 % are non emergencies.... I hope if i have a problem at my house it would be considered a REAL emergency and they will respond.
By WHB19 (7), westhampton beach on Aug 24, 11 10:15 PM
If you ever went to the beach you would see the 8 lifeguards they have down there. Im sure they can manage the few minutes he is gone. Its not like he jumped off the stand when you and your children are in the water. Im sure you wouldnt mind if it was your house was on fire!
By GoldenBoy (351), EastEnd on Aug 24, 11 10:17 PM

Where does the greater responsibility lie?

That is the question...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Aug 25, 11 12:29 AM
strange to see an argument being reported on in the public newspaper.
By kaluss (113), Southampton on Aug 25, 11 6:58 AM
As usual the mayor is saying it's my way or the highway. I thought the village board makes the policies?
By left eq (28), Southampton on Aug 25, 11 12:56 PM
The Mayor sent a memo stating that essential personnell (lifeguards) cannot leave their post. It doesn't seem like there should be any controversy with that? Mr. Rayonr should be commended for his desire to serve the community but I think the Mayor is only trying to protect the people on the beach. I agree with Kaluss this is a minor administrative issue and it is a strange issue for the press to report on.
By silverbeaver666 (8), westhampton on Aug 25, 11 1:14 PM
1 member liked this comment