CHESTERFIELD, MO (KPLR) – A Facebooking employee of Chesterfield’s Drury Plaza Hotel is out of a job after curiosity over dozens of Homeland Security vehicles in the hotel garage got the best of him. His photos on social media got him fired.
Mark Paffrath saw the collection of vehicles last Thursday, and it certainly got his attention.
“It was very odd that there was a bunch of Homeland Security cars there and I was shocked and took a picture and a short video and posted them to Facebook with the status update, ‘What are these vehicles doing here? I wonder if it has anything to do with Ferguson?’”
The next day his boss called him in and told him to take down the pictures. He removed them from his page and worked the rest of the day.
It was the day after that Paffrath says he was called into the office again. This time, he says the hotel chain’s director of security was there to fire him. And some of the things he said were hard to swallow for this man who served three years in the navy.
“He called me a terrorist and said I dishonorably served my country for posting those pictures and the short video,” he said. Then, “He gave me a threat that if I were to repost the pictures that I would be locked up and have DHS knocking on my door and all that other stuff.”
There has been no knock from federal authorities.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service confirms that the vehicles belong to them. They refused comment on why so many are in town, and would not answer the specific question as to whether they are in place in anticipation of the St. Louis County Grand Jury’s decision in the case of Officer Darren Wilson. The Federal Protective Service handles security for all federal buildings and courthouses.
Paffrath originally spoke to the online Argus Streaming News about what happened. He says his story appears to have gone viral, with hundreds of notes of support coming his way via Facebook and Twitter. You can see the original article here: http://www.argusnewsnow.com/story/2014/11/01/news/navy-veteran-fired-from-drury-plaza-hotel-for-posting-photos-of-homeland-security-vehicles-on-facebook/156.html.
Paffrath says he was also told by his superiors that he put a $150 thousand contract with the Department of Homeland Security in jeopardy for the hotel. Homeland Security would not comment on that either. Paffrath, meanwhile, thinks the whole thing was blown out of proportion.
“It’s definitely an overreaction. I feel like they could have handled it better, I mean given us a security meeting possibly and given us details they were coming. I had no clue they were even arriving here. And then I come and see these vehicles here. Obviously I’m going to take a picture, it’s not the normal thing we have 70+ homeland security vehicles there.”
Drury Hotels would only confirm Paffrath had worked there in the past and now does not.
In a statement, Vice President and General Counsel Joseph Pereles said, “We do not publicly discuss confidential personnel matters. The safety and privacy of our guests and our team members has always been and will remain our top priority.”