A Polk County policy that forbids its first responders from working for other fire departments, either in a staff position or on a volunteer basis, has come under fire lately.
The rule has been in place since 2017, but hasn’t been enforced until this year. Union leaders agree with the policy, saying it was enacted in response to a newly passed state law designed to protect firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer.
But it’s become a particularly hot subject in the small city of Frostproof, where the fire department relies heavily on volunteers — some of whom lend a helping hand on their days off — and is run by a chief who’s also on the county’s payroll.
That fire chief, Jerry Riner, has been employed by the county since 1995 and currently serves as a fire captain.
Riner, who has worked for Frostproof in some capacity for decades, became the subject of a county internal affairs investigation on Sept. 24 for “acts of misconduct” and will be suspended from his county job without pay starting Oct. 11 for pulling double duty, according to the county.