Kokomo firefighter Scott Kern’s right to free speech was violated when he was demoted by the Kokomo Board of Public Works and Safety, according to a ruling issued today by Howard Circuit Court Judge Lynn Murray.

Kern, a 16-year fire department veteran, was demoted from captain to the rank of firefighter June 20 after the board of works found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer.

The board cited comments Kern made to local media criticizing Fire Chief Dave Duncan and the city administration.

In her ruling, Murray ordered Kern reinstated to the rank of captain and awarded him back pay.

“Kern’s protected speech was the motivating factor in the City’s filing the complaint seeking sanctions against Kern,” Murray wrote.

“... The court therefore concludes that since Kern’s statements were protected free speech, the decision of the Kokomo Board of Public Works and Safety to demote Kern from captain to firefighter must be set aside and reversed.”

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