A firefighter has been suspended from the Lakeland Fire Department in Ronkonkoma as the department investigates an inflammatory Facebook comment about an East Meadow mosque made by a user who identified himself on social media as a Lakeland fire commissioner, the fire district’s attorney said Monday.
In a statement, the attorney, Robert Flynn, said the Lakeland fire chief began an investigation into a comment made by “Jerry Omara.” The user had identified himself on Facebook as a Lakeland district fire commissioner, and wrote a response to a Newsday Facebook posting about the Long Island Muslim Society’s attempt to add a second floor to its mosque in East Meadow.
The Aug. 15 comment, which since has been deleted, read: “Let them put a fifth floor on the building and then take them up to the Roof and throw them off it.”
“Pending the outcome of the investigation, the individual firefighter has been suspended by the Chief,” Flynn wrote in the statement.
Voter registry, election advertisements and previous Newsday coverage give the spelling of the commissioner’s last name as O’Mara.
O’Mara is a volunteer firefighter with the department as well as a fire commissioner with the district, according to Flynn. The fire district announced its investigation on Aug. 15 after the comment was posted. Flynn did not directly address Monday if the investigation would affect O’Mara’s status as a fire commissioner, which is a publicly elected position.
“The Board of Fire Commissioners has the ultimate authority to discipline a member of the Fire Department if the facts warrant discipline,” Flynn wrote. The fire district is “committed to serve and protect each and every resident of the Fire District no matter who they are or what their background might be. Hate speech or discriminatory speech will not be tolerated.”
Flynn did not immediately respond to an email Monday asking how long O’Mara had been a firefighter and a commissioner, when the suspension was effective, what the investigation entails and if officials had confirmed whether O’Mara had in fact made the posting.
O’Mara, who lives in Ronkonkoma, could not be reached for comment on Monday. On a Facebook page dedicated to his 2012 re-election bid for commissioner, campaign materials posted there said he had been a Lakeland firefighter for 22 years at the time.