New York

Wedding Announcement Ignites Animosity at NJ Fire Department

The couple, who met as volunteer firefighters, said they were told their Facebook announcement violated policy

A New Jersey couple who met as volunteer firefighters attracted a surprising response to their wedding announcement from the fire chief: a threat of suspension.

The couple, Paul Mellor and Danielle Szep, got well-wishes and "likes" after posting their announcement on Facebook. The announcement featured a clever display showing their names on the backs of their firefighter coats.

"We knew each other in high school but started dating through the fire department," Szep said. 

She added, "That's why it's part of our invitation."

So, Szep said they were stunned when Garfield Fire Chief James Kovacs Sr. told them on March 17 to remove their announcement immediately or face suspension because it violated department policies.

City officials later reversed the decision, after Szep had reluctantly deleted the announcement. She also deleted all other pictures related to the department, such as fundraisers and firefighters battling fires.

"I took it all down....I was very upset," she said.

According to the Bergen Record, which first reported the story, Mellor said during a recent city council meeting that he and Szep are proud to serve as volunteers and have shown their pride by posting "positive" pictures of department activities on Facebook.

"It's unfair that James Kovacs Sr. takes that right away from me and other members of the department who volunteer their time and effort and feel that they have to walk on eggshells and constantly be afraid of suspension," he said.

When contacted by the Record, Kovacs said the new social media policy was "a work in progress and nothing has been finalized yet."

City officials later told NBC 4 New York that they determined that the announcement didn't violate policy and that the couple could use the fire coats in their announcement.

Mayor Tana Raymond said that Szep and Mellor's invitation is something the city should endorse.

"For a young couple to pick the fact that they are firefighters for the theme of their wedding is flattering to the city and firefighters everywhere and we should endorse it," Raymond said.

Mellor said he and Szep are planning a "traditional fire department wedding" on May 21 that involves riding in a fire truck and wearing the coats shown in their Facebook announcement.

Szep said she was happy that she was able to be able to use her invitation again. 

"We made a difference, she said. 

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