ZEPHYRHILLS — A Pasco County paramedic was suspended without pay for up to a year after admitting he brought marijuana into a county fire station.
Another firefighter reported finding a small amount of the drug Friday in the open bay area of Station No. 16, which is located on State Road 54 just outside of Zephyrhills. County Spokesman Doug Tobin said the loose marijuana amounted to less than half an ounce, not enough to make one joint. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office tested the substance and confirmed it was marijuana, but the amount was so small they declined to open a criminal investigation, Tobin said.
“Pasco County has a zero tolerance policy for illegal drugs, and drug use is not tolerated,” Tobin said. “The public can be assured the men and women who work at the Pasco Fire Rescue hold themselves to a higher standard. The small amount of marijuana was found and turned in by a firefighter, and in the end an employee stepped forward and admitted the drug belonged to him.”
Eddie Haberle, an engineer/paramedic who joined the department in 2003, has been placed on inactive status for up to one year, meaning he will be on unpaid leave and will not receive any employment benefits. Haberle will be eligible to apply for reinstatement in six months if he successfully completes a drug rehab program, passes a drug test and submits to quarterly testing, Tobin said.
Haberle came forward over the weekend — before the department asked employees to submit to drug tests. Had he tested positive for the drug, he would have been fired immediately, according to county policy.
“He’s very remorseful and sorry that he embarrassed the department,” Tobin said.