PETERSBURG, W.Va. — Two Grant County 911 dispatchers were fired Tuesday for airing a Christian-themed message over the county’s pager system on Christmas Eve.

Hunter Whetzel and Jared Alt took part in the broadcast that focused on the birth of Jesus Christ and his death on the cross.

Alt said he believed the message of the real meaning of Christmas needed to be broadcast. Alt said they waited until all emergency units were back in service and not on calls to broadcast the message.

The men said they were fired for insubordination and violation of FCC regulations regarding public safety frequency usage. Both said they will fight for their jobs.

Officials with the Grant County emergency dispatch said they cannot comment on personnel issues.

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Comments

  • Rodney Ludwig

    How many times do you think Paul Harvey would have been fired if you get fired for telling the truth?
    Just saying.

  • Mike Crognale

    This is terrible, of course. What will be worse is when the FCC charges them with criminal misuse of FCC assigned frequencies. The fines and jail time are severe. It will happen, count on it. The Obama administration will make sure that the FCC carries it out.The ONLY reason the county fired them is to avoid having to pay the legal expenses of employees.
    Sad.

    • mtnmedic

      It's not the "Obama administration" will make sure the FCC carries things out. ANY administration will make sure the FCC will do its job and carry out punishments. This isn't an GOP or DEM thing. Get off that. Why do you people have to politicize EVERYTHING?

      Let's not kid ourselves here. I have been in public safety for 33 years and I've never seen anyone do hard time for misuse or even abuse of government radio systems. I've only heard of the more egregious acts being met with incarceration. However, I've seen some very stiff fines handed out by the FCC. For example, $15,000 per day if you're caught transmitting on wideband radios when everything has been stepped down to 12.5 KHz narrowband.

  • greg coulter

    I have to ask What country are you from that CHRISTMAS Themes are `nt good for the moral of Most First Responders to Include our Military which makes up most of our Police ,EMTs ,Firemen and women This country was a better place with Believing in GOD and The Pledge To the American Flag . if you don`t believe this you have no clue and should move to a different country...

    • mtnmedic

      What country are YOU from if you allow general yak, chatter, Christmas stories and religious stories on EMERGENCY PUBLIC SAFETY RADIO frequencies? That's 2nd world stuff.

      Besides, this situation has ZERO to do with God.

      It has everything to do with INSUBORDINATION. If you do something your boss tells you NOT to do and you do it in grand fashion AND you boast about it on Facebook, EXPECT to be fired. Your boss will find someone who cares about their job enough to do it right.

      What part of that don't you understand???

  • AmericanInfidel

    And yet the military allows religious groups wear 'religious head wear'? Typical LIBERAL crap! If it had been a MUSLIM message ending in ALLAHU AKUBAR (PATOOY), nothing would have been said because you don't want to offend the MINORITIES!

    • mtnmedic

      Let's get something straight.

      First of all, this situation has ZERO to do with Democrats and Republicans or politics in general.

      Also this situation has ZERO to do with God, Allah, Buddha, Santa Claus or even Batman..

      It has everything to do with INSUBORDINATION. If you do something your boss tells you NOT to do and you do it in grand fashion AND you boast about it on Facebook, EXPECT to be fired. If you break the law in the commission of your job as well, EXPECT to be fired. Your boss will find someone who cares about their job enough to do it right.

      What part of that don't you understand???

  • lisa

    If a Indiana teacher can be fired fir watching porn at the school and get back pay and his job back then you guys canwhat you did was not wrong at all good luck!

    • mtnmedic

      Watching porn at work is a violation of work policies. That's a totally different story than VIOLATING FEDERAL REGULATIONS (you probably don't know, but that = breaking the law). Break the law WHILE you violate work policies, EXPECT to get fired.

      End of story.

  • joe

    The truth of the matter is these dispatchers had every good positive intention and did no harm to others. This job has many stresses and could not be done without some faith in GOD. It seems like good common sense is not so common anymore and this world is losing its way. Good luck and God bless

    • mtnmedic

      Yes, I agree that this job has a lot of stresses and some it couldn't be done without God or whatever someone turns to for faith, strength and consolation.

      And yes, no harm came from their actions-fortunately for everyone. They took a big, stupid risk and did something they were told SPECIFICALLY not to do. Religious faith or not, you do something your employer tells you NOT to do, expect to be reprimanded or lose your job. Period. Your employer knows there are lots of people out there just BEGGING to work who can-and will-do the job right without disobeying orders.

      And these guys violated Federal regulations. Just so you understand: you CANNOT use government radio systems to air your religious beliefs and you CANNOT use public safety radio for anything other than directly involving public safety operations. Plain and simple. Breaking the law, which also could jeopardize your employer's license for frequency allocation, is also another great way to get fired.

      And these two boasted about it on a public form (Facebook or whatever), fully ADMITTING what they did was against work policies and that they'd expected to be fired. They got that one right.

      Yes, common sense is not so common sense...if you use your faith as a reason to do wrong and expect it to be simply excused or to get light punishment because you believe in God. Whatever happened to ACCOUNTABILITY????

      If they were really great Christians, they could take pride in their faith but have felt great shame for what they did-which they KNEW was wrong- and QUIT. That would've been the honorable thing to do. But no, they tried to sluff it off and cross their fingers they wouldn't get fired. Does THAT sound honest to you???

      No, they didn't practice common sense or good judgment. And that, my friend, is PARAMOUNT in public safety. There is very little to no margin for error in this business. Lives and property are at stake.

  • Wanda Ketterman

    First of all, I'm not afraid to post my name. I'm glad I no longer consider Petersburg my home in light of ignorance like the firing of these two dedicated servants. Smug, self-serving, and hypocritical comes to mind for this ignorant decision. A written reprimand would have sufficed--at most! Where did the common sense and decency come into this person(s) head in this process? You should learn the politics of your job and that doesn't mean standing in judgement or following the instructions of your narrow-minded leaders. What a bunch of jackasses!

    • mtnmedic

      Um....these two blatantly disobeyed a direct order from their surperiors to everyone not to have any Christmas chatter on the air. They not only ignored their bosses, they boasted about it in a public forum and fully acknowledged the fact that they could possibly be dismissed for it.

      On top of all that, they violated Federal laws, which could also land their employer in hot water.

      No politics were in play here. This employer did what a lot of employers would do. Like firefighters, cops and Paramedics, public safety dispatchers are held to a far higher standard than many other jobs because lives and property depend upon their ability to act with integrity, professionialism, accuracy and sound judgement, none of which were demonstrated by these two clods.

      Employers-especially those in public safety- don't have time to mess around with insubordinates. They have a business to run and, if necessary, they'll go find someone who can follow directions and get the job done right with a minimum amount of supervision. While supposedly "no harm" may have come from these guys' actions, this kind of employer cannot and WILL NOT tolerate careless risk of something happening-no matter how innocent it may seem- that COULD jeopardize someone's safety and life.

      Doing something wrong is one thing that could require some form of lesser punishment, depending upon the severity of the error. However, doing something wrong and willingly doing it in DEFIANCE of your supervisor's direct order is pretty bad. Bragging about it without remorse online in a public forum tells everyone you don't care about your job. That's a whole different level of stupid.

      Stupid is as stupid does. They got what they deserved.

  • mtnmedic

    Maybe you religious folks don't understand.

    First, the FCC has STRICT regulations about how certain radio frequencies are used, particularly PUBLIC SAFETY frequencies. Frequency allocations for general use in PRIVATE business -like plumbers and tow trucks-use are totally different and have much more leeway as to what can be said over the air. Aside from that, these guys used a GOVERNMENT radio system to promote religious beliefs, which is illegal.

    Keep in mind....the Constitution, which you religious people seem to think God himself handed down to Americans and clutch close to your chest, CLEARLY establishes a separation of Church and State in the First Amendment.

    FYI: Improper use of an FCC-allocated radio frequency IS a Federal offense and may be punishable by law. The licensee of the radio frequencies involved also runs the risk of having their frequency allocation permanently revoked.

    Ever hear any fire and police units being paged or dispatched on FM or AM radio, television signal, FRS (family radio band), ham and C.B. frequencies? No. That, too, would be deemed as illegal use of those frequencies. In fact, singing a song on ham radio frequencies is illegal use. Public safety frequencies were designed specifically and ONLY for public safety operations-related conversations and messages for one good reason: lives and property depend upon it. It doesn't matter if it's only for paging and there's a lull and everyone's asleep, waiting for a call.

    These dispatchers KNEW and ADMITTED doing what they did was a violation of their workplace policies. The dispatchers were told that there was to be no "holiday talk" over the radio. These clowns not only IGNORED a direct order, they elected to use the radio frequency assigned to pagers claiming this somehow circumvented the order.

    If you work at the checkout stand at a grocery store and your boss tells everyone at work "I don't want anyone singing" and you decide to bust out a religious song because you just "KNEW" everyone "NEEDED" to hear it, claiming Christ's message HAS to be heard, you would be SO out of a job. It has NOTHING to do with your religious affiliation and doesn't arise to discrimination. It has everything to do with your ability to do your job, which includes adhering to company policies and the directions given to you by your supervisor. You were hired to check groceries, not sing songs. The standards for public safety professionals are FAR greater. A public safety dispatcher's job isn't to editorialize or to entertain. At all. It's to relay vital PUBLIC SAFETY information.

    You willingly break the rules, you get to pay the consequences if you're caught. End of story. Any excuses for what these guys did is a giant stinking pile of FAIL.

    It's PUBLIC SAFETY radio, not the Christian Broadcast Network. Don't like it? That's too bad. Until the Church takes over all aspects of the government, that's the way it will be. Post your little religious messages on Facebook or YouTube or have a Christian radio station air it for you.

    And this isn't a jab on Christianity. Had these guys been Muslims I have no doubt there would be little sympathy for them.

    By the way. "Freedom of speech" doesn't guarantee a pulpit. Christianity doesn't guarantee you're right about anything.

    • Mike Crognale

      You had a great comment going until this: "Keep in mind....the Constitution, which you religious people seem to think God himself handed down to Americans and clutch close to your chest, CLEARLY establishes a separation of Church and State in the First Amendment."

      Sorry that is not in the Constitution. You are confusing that with The Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists. Google it. Other wise you are dead right.

      • mtnmedic

        We can argue 'til the cows come home about separation of Church and State, the Constitution, the First Amendment, Jefferson, etc. Really, religion has ZERO to do with this situation.

        The point is these guys broke the law while in the commission of their jobs and they blatantly ignored their supervisors' orders AND they boasted about it online. If I were there employer, regardless of how "innocent" the transgression may seem to some, I would SO fire them. I wouldn't have time or desire to deal with insubordinates who break the law. I have a business to run and I'm sure there are lots of people out there who would value their jobs enough to follow my directions and not put my company at risk of losing its FCC frequency allocation.

        I'm just sick and tired of religious people thinking that these firings are an affront to Christianity when they can't see past their thick skulls to realize the KEY points of this matter, as I mentioned in the paragraph above.

      • Mike Crognale

        The Thomas Jefferson letter. Sorry. Forgot to type that word.

  • Carol

    These employees were not doing anything wrong evidently. The emergency's were being handled and not jeopardized. Have other things been put on there not related to an emergency? It is the truth about Christmas celebrated here by Christians. Our coins have "in God we trust". Prayer day is held at the courthouse. Are other holidays mentioned at times? Does the Grant County Courthouse, the State of WV and the Nation recognize this Christmas Day as a holiday and special time? What is the issue? There is a lot of questions as to why this specific incident is considered wrong and possibly others aren't? I can only pray that the best will come from this. Are these young men doing a good job as 911 operators or is there another reason to fire them? Good luck to everyone involved and hope the right decision is made.

    • mtnmedic

      This has ZERO to do with anyone recognizing Christmas as a holiday.

      And yes, the employees DID do something wrong.

      1) They willfully IGNORED their employer's order to not have any Christmas talk over the air and they admitted that they'd violated company policy in a public forum.

      2) They used a GOVERNMENT radio frequency to air their religious beliefs. That's illegal.

      3) They used PUBLIC SAFETY radio frequencies to air their religious story. That's in violation of FCC regulations regarding the use of specific frequencies.

      What part of this don't you understand????

  • jane peacher

    Hope you are reinstated. If not have faith that something better awaits you both

  • Ricardo

    I think there should be a sign at the courthouse door saying we are a Christian nation and anyone who does not believe in Jesus should burn in hell and leave the county unless they open their mind and accept His love. It is time we Christians stood up against atheists, Muslims, Jews and everyone who is not like us.

    • mtnmedic

      This has ZERO, ZILCH, ZIP, NADA, NOTHING to do with religion. It has everything to do with the fact that:

      1) They used a GOVERNMENT radio to express their religious beliefs, which is ILLEGAL. In fact, using a PUBLIC SAFETY radio frequency for anything other than public safety-specific purposes violates FCC regulations.

      2) They IGNORED their employer's orders to not transmit any Christmas messages and they publicly ADMITTED it.

      So, what you're saying is you support scofflaws, insubordinates and people who can't do their job.

      Sorry, pal, it's a FREE COUNTRY and everyone is entitled to live where they want (without invading anyone else's personal space). Atheists, Muslims, Jews, and anyone else who is "not like us" can live in your county. Right next door to you, in fact. If you don't like it, that's to darned bad. You know why? The Constitution, which you Christians hold so dear to your chest like it was something handed down by God himself, states such freedom.

      And, as far as I know (and I've read it from cover to cover), the Bible doesn't specifically state that nobody else but Christians can inhabit your county.

      Sorry to disappoint you.

  • Faith

    WOW!! After scanning through & reading all the comments on here, I am completely amazed. As a fellow EMT & my husband is a firefighter I am greatful I have God to turn to during those difficult moments. I am amazed that the 2 EMT's can run calls with out Gods support. He is the ultimate healer & the decision maker between life & death but here you to are condemning two five young men who made a stand for God after all CHRIST is in Christmas & it seems to me a lot of people need that reminder!!
    As for the comment about it interfering with a 911 call it did not calls come in on a phone line not through the pager....as for the comment of turning off the pager no but I know for a fact you have a button that you can hit & it silences the page.
    Thanks for standing up for God Jared & Hunter!!!!! Keep your heads held high he never brings you to anything bigger than you can handle. You have him, & support from the Tri-County area on your side!!!!

    • mtnmedic

      I'm a career Firefighter/Paramedic who is also a volunteer firefighter and medic in my community. I'm not a Christian. But I believe in everyone's right to uphold their religious beliefs.

      That said, Public Safety radio frequencies are NOT the place for religious messages. Period. Besides that, I'd be pissed if my pager went off and it turned out to be a three-minute sermon. Sure, I can silence/reset the pager. But c'mon. That's just dumb.

      Besides, public safety radio frequencies are JUST for public safety emergency messages and communications for units out on a call. What these guys did was not only dumb, it's illegal.

      Shame on you. You being rescue workers should know better. I applaud your devotion to God, but I deplore your audacity to think that this stunt is entirely innocent rather than ignorant.

  • Mr. Wright

    Why is it that the religious right latch on to anything that appears to be an affront to Christianity? The real problem here is that two employees broke the rules, disobeyed a direct order and did what they wanted to anyway. Show me any other employer who wouldn't handle it differently. All these people who think they two gentlemen were persecuted can take up a collection to pay their bills. She how people feel then. The religious right can put their money where their mouths are. And please stop screaming "freedom of speech". That only applies to the government when it comes to denying someone's rights. That doesn't apply to a Federally mandated air wave. I bet the same people crying for justice feel the same way about Duck Dynasty...smh

    • mtnmedic

      They want so desperately to be right about their beliefs that they'll overlook things like insubordination and lawlessness. Kind of odd given that God doesn't exactly overlook insubordination and lawlessness.

  • Kaitlin Acord

    This discuss me to no end

    • Mr. Wright

      Poor grammar discuss me too...

  • what up with that?

    My questions:
    If this was such a serious offense why was it not addressed until 2 1/2 weeks after?
    Why was one suspended, the other not, yet both fired THREE WEEKS after the incident?
    What does that say about the management?
    Since they fired 2 excellent dispatchers, where does that leave the county in coverage...either short or overworked.. either way what if there is an emergency?
    How could a message wishing all residents of Grant County a Merry Christmas be so well received in the community yet be punished so harshly?
    Granted discipline was needed...the suspension was adequate.
    With the timing what did it hurt? look at all those it helped...politics plain and simple...my vote will be cast more carefully next time.

    • mtnmedic

      Politics weren't in play at all here.

      Maybe you don't get it.

      1) These guys DISOBEYED A DIRECT ORDER from their supervisor(s). That alone is something that will put your job in jeopardy with MOST employers.

      1a) It wasn't a simple message of "Merry Christmas". which still was against the employer's directions but at least would've netted a warning or suspension. No...instead it was a NEARLY THREE-MINUTE SERMON. You obviously aren't a public safety official but I am so let me tell you this: 3 minutes is an ETERNITY in this business.

      2) These guys BROKE THE LAW by doing something they knew full well was against the law. That alone will likely get you fired by most employers.

      3) These guys BOASTED their deed and ADMITTED that what they did would cost them their jobs. While this alone won't necessarily cost you your job, it's actually a big nail in your coffin if you're already in trouble. Doing this tells your boss you don't give a rat's behind about your job. Believe me, once the employer finds out, he/she will find someone who DOES care enough about their job to toe the line.

      Here's why it was addressed 2-2.5 weeks later: INTERNAL INVESTIGATION. Employers, in order to protect themselves, should have due diligence in making sure they have all the facts before taking disciplinary action. It's not like the supervisors were right there when it happened, as they would've been dismissed at the end of their shift, if not on the spot.

      Sometimes, during the course of investigation by employers, someone may be suspended if they're caught telling a lie or not cooperating. Sometimes the employer finds that a supervisor or senior employee-who has higher responsibility and higher expectations to achieve, would be suspended until the end of investigation if it was found to suggest he was supposed to mind the other employee instead he allowed the situation to occur and he himself participated.

      Well received message, indeed. Yet, it was a religious and personal message aired out on a GOVERNMENT RADIO system. Against the law and WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE for public safety communications. Unfortunately, only the IGNORANT and UNEDUCATED would think such a little sermon would be "appropriate" on an EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION system. While "nobody got hurt", they were just plain LUCKY nothing happened. They took a stupid risk that COULD have cost someone the loss of their property or life.

      Public safety radio is NOT a pulpit for personal and religious messages. It's for EMERGENCY-related information ONLY. Why don't you people GET that? What's so hard to understand about it?