ONLY ON 3: Fired firefighter, friends fight to get his job back

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Submitted: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 3:53am
Updated: Wed, 08/21/2013 - 12:20pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — He was fired not for being a bad employee, but for being locked up.

But now, after being cleared of all charges against him, former Wilmington firefighter Robert Hester is back home. Now he and other firefighters are working their way up the ladder to try and get his job back.

The city fired Hester in April because he’d missed too many days of work while being held without bond in Virginia. During his trial many of his former colleagues continued to stand by his side.

“The DA’s office decided to drop the remaining charge, because there was no credible evidence that ANYTHING happened, and their one witness perjured herself, and is no longer credible,” Master firefighter Michael Bannon wrote in an email to all of WFD shortly after the verdict. “He will be home tonight if anyone wants to come up to Elizabethtown to welcome him home… Anyone is welcome to go, and show him that this department did not abandon him.”

The following day Wilmington Fire Chief Buddy Martinette started the push to get Hester his old job back.

“At this point I would like to request that we reinstate Robert to his previous position and pay him retroactively to the day he was terminated,” Martinette wrote in an e-mail to City Attorney Bill Wolak. “As most of you know, I was vehemently opposed to the way this situation was handled, however I carried out my duties as chief to terminate this employee.”

Until Hester can either have his civil servant hearing or is reinstated many of his colleagues have vowed to stand beside him and fan the flames of hope.

We tried to contact Hester for comment on this story and on his pending appeal, but we have not heard back. Chief Martinette was also not available for comment this afternoon.


  • A firiend says:

    Robert should definitely be reinstated and paid for his lost wages. This man has not had a negative evaluation or been disciplined. So many forget we are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Sadly, so many are tried and convicted by the media before they ever reach a court room. Hat’s off to the Chief for standing behind his employees. If a police officer is involved in a shooting he is placed on administrative leave. It’s time the city changed there policy and extended this to ALL employees. I guess we’ll have to wait to see if the city leaders dothe right thing or continue to worry about saving face!!!

  • Realistic Guest says:

    Oh Come On Now, you know darn well that even though this was not a racist incident. had the firefighter been black it would have been made into one. The race card is always the one played when blacks do not get their way.

  • Advocate says:

    The Fire Dept should probably treat his absence as a lay off. He would not be paid for that time, but can be one of the first to be recalled if an opening occurs. After all, even though it was not his fault, there was an opening that had to be filled. The Fire Dept did nothing wrong in following policy. HOWEVER, I believe applicants with criminal backgrounds cannot be hired, and if a criminal act occurs during employment they have to be terminated. SO he had better check to see if there is a criminal record out there in a background check. If there is, the whole point of reinstating is mute. He would need to get it expunged.

  • Screaming Scott says:

    Thanks for the information, Guest 1. But a Civil Service Hearing, not just a post, by Guest 1, will reveal the entire truth. Which is what is needed. If he is, in fact, innocent, he needs to apply for a Civil Service Hearing, immediately.

  • jj says:

    They let a drunk keep his job the first time he was caught drinking on the job and the second time they let him quit and didn’t fire him. They why not give an innocent and should get his job back.

    Well, the drunk was an officer in the FD, so I guess the good old boy’s were looking after him.

  • Tracy Bannon says:

    Thank You. Been wanting to do that for a looking time!!!

  • DP101 says:

    Well if he was black, Al Sharpton would make sure he got his job back and he got a pay raise too!

  • GuestMan. says:

    That is one of the dumbest, most racist statements any idiot has ever put on here, and that says alot.

  • guesty says:

    You can bet your bottom dollar Cheatham would have stopped the firing in the first place. Him and a number of others in the police department have worn out their welcome in Wilmington and need to be fired.

  • Guest 1 says:

    Roberts name has been posted all over the news but the “victims” name has not been spoken. It was reported that the “victim” was a woman that Hester knew. So now that we know that she was not a “victim” why not release that the woman was Robert’s ex-wife Stephanie Davis, a flight attendant employed with United Airlines.

  • guesty says:

    It may be dumb but it is true.

  • Thankful Guest says:

    This was not a racial case; it was between 2 white people and no African Americans so why interject race into this horrible situation. If you cared to look beyond the color of Mr. Al Sharpton’s skin, you would find a man who is, and always has been, deeply devoted to the civil rights of others. Had there not been such a dire need for someone to fight for the civil rights of blacks, I have no doubt Mr. Sharpton would have dedicated his life to fight for the civil rights of ALL people, black or white. I wish we could live in a country where everyone could get along, regardless of their skin color. As long as there are people like this person, who is intent on spreading hate among humans, there will be no peace. As a personal friend of Robert Hester and his entire family and one who champions ALL firefighters, I am thankful this horrible ordeal is over for them and pray they can soon recover emotionally, mentally, physically, and financially. Why couldn’t you just wish Robert well and keep your hateful comments to yourself?

  • Maureen Thompson Bell says:

    There was NO personal indescretion. It was a case of a cold calculating manipulative woman luring him to a state where sexual assault laws, among other laws (state of VA)are insane; she planned it and admitted to doing so. When a person’s livlihood is at stake, the court system HAS to work as it should work and it DID; he was proven innocent and cleared of all charges. The actions of this woman were intended to ruin him; correspondance from her, as presented in court as evidence, proves this. OK. Let’s make a deal to please those of you who feel he is not deserving of back pay in addition to re-instatement of his job. Help change the laws so perpetrators like HER will be held legally accountable for her CRIME against victim’s like Robert. He WAS the victim; make HER pay his back pay, court costs, and every other expense incurred by him and his family. Also, a substantial amount of money for mental anguish, defamation of character and maybe even something for their young son whose life was turned upside down because of his mother’s selfishness and spite. Post her photo all over the media for everyone to see and make sure everyone knows the disgusting things she did to herself and accused the father of her child of doing just because she wanted to RUIN his life (admitted by her). Robert was sitting in an out-of-state jail, with no income, wondering how his bills were going to be paid. Finding out he could possibly be sentenced to life imprisonment if the jurors miss the truth was a much harsher reality he had to face. Very little food, no ice cold beverage, couldn’t see his son for months, limited and monitored phone calls to his family, a hard bunk to sleep on, and the list goes on and on. Thank GOD he has a loving family and loyal friends who believe in him. Getting his back pay, of course, will make a difference in his IMMEDIATE life. If he doesn’t he will STILL be alright; he’s a hard worker and he’ll find a way. Seeing what our friend has been through is heart breaking; YOU JUST DON’T KNOW.

  • 410 says:

    I agree for him to get his job back, but no back pay. As far as changing the laws so that the women has to give him back pay, they are already there. He just sues her for the money he lost. If there was ever a time when someone should and needed to sue someone else. This sound like the time. The City of Wilmington should not have to pay someone who was not there. They already had to pay for someone else to fill in for him while he was out. So you want the city to pay double? Yes to his job, no to back pay. You wouldnt get back pay if you missed work for ANY reason. Why should he. Before you start with this whole “walk in their shoes first” crap. I have been a Firefighter/EMS and a Police Officer.

  • Vog46 says:

    Let me try to make this more clear for you.
    A woman “lures” a man to VA for sex
    And he falls for it.

    He’s at fault for falling for this just as much a the womans at fault for ding it.
    Job back, no back pay.


  • Is That You, John Wayne ? says:

    “What do you think an internal investigation conducted by the Fire Chief will find that the VA Court system did not find?”

    Hopefully nothing. And if it is, actually nothing, he would be a fool, not to invoke his right to a Civil Service Hearing.

  • Guest33 says:

    well if the chief wants him back – it will happen.
    and back pay too! oh yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

  • Guest4396 says:

    He should indeed get his job back, but I don’t think the FD is responsible for back pay. It was not their fault that things happened like they did. Whoever pressed charges should be the one(s) to pay any restitution he might have coming.

  • Vog46 says:

    Who thought he should be brought back just let me say I don’t think he should get back pay on top of re-instatement. A personal indiscretion is jut that personal – and therefore should not be paid for time off.
    Just my opinion


  • Ryan Lee Burris says:

    What were the charges?

  • Guest & neighbor says:

    They should give him his job back because he was falsely accused and sent to jail for 5 months because of a crazy person. I agree that the one who accused him of these false allegations should have to pay him back for every day of wages lost. She should also have to spend a day in jail for every day that he had to serve as well. I would love to see how she likes not being on a boat at the beach in the sun to sitting in a jail cell without seeing the outside except for 30 minutes before the sunsets.

  • Guest111 says:

    He was put in jail and kept there before being found guilty. He should not have been fired and he needs his back pay.

  • Fire Critic says:

    In this Country we were innocent until proven guilty…either by our own admission, judge, or jury.

    He was fired for being locked up for something that he was never convicted of.

    Too many employers (especially Public Service) forget this. The truth is that he should have been placed on Administrative leave (with or without pay depending on the operating procedures of the locale).

    Then, once he was freed, he should have been reinstated and been given backpay if he was on administrative leave w/o pay.

    That is the way it should happen.

  • HistoricGirl says:

    I would like to know who this “crazy woman” was, and what his involvement with her, was.

    Luckily, this Firefighter, can demand a Civil Service Hearing, waiving all privacy issue rights, allowing the city to present it’s internal investigation, publicly.

    He should not lose his job, just because he was arrested. Based on the ‘Not Guilty’ verdict. It wasn’t his fault, he was in jail, and unable to report to duty.

    Unless the City can show gross, inappropriate conduct, he should be reinstated, with back pay.

  • Jack Wagon says:

    Robert should get his job back. It has been proven that the accusations were false.

  • Tracy Bannon says:

    Maybe we should ask our city manager who REALLY wanted this man terminated….jus’ sayin’..

  • Mark Williamson says:

    The firefighter has proven his innocence in a court of law. If we put ourselves in his shoes of being falsely accused, jailed and having to prove your innocence, we can understand not being able to call in or report to duty. The City needs to put this firefighter back to work and not loose all the money and time spent in training.

  • Guest2020 says:

    He wasn’t proven innocent. The jury decided that the prosecution did not prove that he was guilty. There is a difference.

  • Truth1014 says:

    Give that man his job back

  • GuestMe says:

    I am so glad the truth is finally out. I hope there is some way he can get his job back and start to move past this horrible ordeal. That woman should be charged and held in jail for at least the same amount of time he was. She tried to ruin this man’s life and hurt the case of every woman who has truly been the victim of sexual assault. Same with that woman who accused the trooper last year. They should be charged! And in case you are wondering, I am a woman and the victim of sexual assault.

  • PublicAvenger says:

    We are blessed to have Civil Service Protection, for our Firefighters, and Police Officers. It is very seldom used, and ensures protection, for those who protect us.

    It is a safeguard against this possible kneejerk reaction, by Fire Officials. It allows the factors to be revealed, and weighed publicly. And a source, independent of the Fire Department makes the final call.

    Just because a person’s case is dropped, it does not always mean he acted innocently. If the Fire Chief’s internal investigation revealed inappropriate behavior, then it will be fairly weighed in the hearing.

    It allows the full truth to come out, which I am interested in seeing, and hope will reinstate a Firefighter.

  • Thankful Guest says:

    The full truth came out in the Court of Virginia USA where Robert was held without bond in their detention center for 5 months. What do you think an internal investigation conducted by the Fire Chief will find that the VA Court system did not find? If you want the FULL TRUTH, why not access the court records from Robert’s trial? May I share with you, the writer, another tragic side to his story? The tragedy is simply how horrible it is that his story is posted on a news media website where people like you have an opportunity to question his innocence and integrity after what he has been through since April; ESPECIALLY after the courts cleared him of all charges. He is a single parent of a beautiful well adjusted 10 year old son who is adored by his father. I’ve known Robert since he was a young child and have watched him grow into an honorable man who dedicated his life to firefighting; a public servant who has risked his life time and again to save the lives of others. His paid position as a firefighter in Wilmington allows him time off several days each week. He comes back home to Elizabethtown and works with no pay, as a volunteer firefighter. Robert made a bad choice in the woman he loved, married, and struggled to keep but never could because she was almost always gone. Robert will be just fine. He has many people who are his champions; those who will continue to stand beside and support him and I’m proud to be among them. I won’t hide my name on this anonymous website. My name is Maureen Thompson Bell, Elizabethtown, NC. When this is finally all over and done, Robert will get his job back, with full pay, as he should. Maybe you live in Wilmington (?); you should only hope he will be among the first responders who come to your aid in the event you ever need help during a crisis in your life.

  • Guest757 says:

    This man was held WITHOUT bond, the city should give him his job back with lost pay… He is and was NOT guilty of anything…

    Give him his job back with pay….

  • Wilmington Observer says:

    In our country one need not prove themself innocent. They are to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. This concept is one of the most basic in our system of justice. A group of this man’s peers (a jury) were presented with the circumstances of the alleged crime and, with no bias, concluded that he was not guilty, as charged. If he has been in a, motor vehicle accident (through no fault of his own) and injured severely enough as to be hospitalized for months, would he have been fired for missing too many days of work? The circumstances surrounding his absence, from work, are no different. As someone who pays this man’s salary (through taxes) I believe that he should be reinstated and his “leave time” (vacation, sick, etc) be cashed in; the same way it would have been if here had been hospitalized due to a motor vehicle accident.

    Wilmington Observer

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