Off-duty remarks: Sacramento fire district confirms employee was behind divisive Facebook posts

Profile that was interpreted as encouraging violence against immigrants taken down

This is an extended version of a story that ran in the December 8, 2016, issue.

Two weeks ago, SN&R came across a post from a Facebook user named Don Martin that suggested using “illegal immigrants” as “target practice.” The user’s name and photos matched those of a fire engineer who has worked for the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District for 25 years.

On December 2, the district confirmed to SN&R that these posts were made by “an employee of the district while off duty.”

In an email, SMFD Acting Deputy Chief of Administration Brian Shannon said, “We have taken action consistent with our policies and within state and federal laws protecting the Constitutional speech rights of public employees.”

Citing worker confidentiality rights, Shannon declined to elaborate what those actions were.

In Brandenburg v. Ohio, the U.S. Supreme Court protected speech that advocates violence so long as it isn’t “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and [isn’t] likely to incite or produce such action.” Several cases have protected public employees from termination for their political beliefs.

In another post, Martin attributed statements from his wife comparing post-election “riots in the streets” to Planet of the Apes. He also shared a post by the Prepare To Take America Back page that asked, “If war came to American soil, would you fight?” Martin added, “I would argue that it already arrived!”

When SN&R contacted an email address advertising Don Martin’s realty business, the person answering from the account said they were “not interested” in an interview. The person hasn’t responded to follow-up emails.

Don Martin’s Facebook page was disabled as of last week.

According to Transparent California, Donald Martin Jr. made $235,856 in total pay and benefits as an SMFD fire engineer in 2015, including $51,000 in overtime.

“The public can be assured that Metro Fire does not condone statements which may be perceived as threatening or discriminatory toward anybody, especially members of the public we serve,” Shannon added.