Jun 132014

Deputy Fire Chief Clarence Jefferson, a 33 year veteran of the Groton Fire Department, is one of a small group of Groton call firefighters who have been told that their appointments as firefighters will not be renewed by the town this year — effectively terminating their employment with the town and the fire department. After Jefferson received that notification on June 9, he submitted a resignation effective at the end of this month.

At least two more firefighters were told in emails on Tuesday, June 10, that their appointments would not be renewed.

In addition, long time firefighter James Horan resigned on June 5. Susan Hogan, the department’s talented and award-winning volunteer photographer and Horan’s wife, was told her services were no longer required by the department.

Town officials would not, or could not, confirm the number of firefighters either not reappointed or who have resigned over the last few weeks.

The resignations and cuts have hit the West Groton station, Station 2, hard. The staff cuts left Station 2 served by only two firefighters, but town officials said they quickly reassigned personnel from Station 1, the Central Station, and Station 3, Lost Lake, to provide coverage.

Bosselait said that the department added eight new firefighters, all of them currently with probationary status, this spring, and also recruited four new emergency medical technicians within the last month.

Fire Chief Joe Bosselait, in electing not to reappoint existing town employees to their positions, is using a tool that is usually used just once a year, each June. Town employees and all appointed board and commission members serve one year-terms synchronized to the town’s fiscal year — from July 1 to June 30. If an employee is not reappointed, they no longer work for the town.

There is a wrinkle related to that, though. It turns out that fire department employees have never been part of the annual reappointment cycle (See Fire Department Employee Reappointments Overlooked For Years). This is the first year in memory that they have been reappointed as employees, and the first time the reappointment process has been used to cut staff.

No town officials would comment officially on the reason for the staff cuts, citing personnel procedures and the possibility of pending lawsuits. Anonymous sources said that people who were not reappointed were cut because of information that surfaced during the investigation of a harassment complaint brought by an emergency medical technician against several fire department officers. The complaint was dismissed by the town as being without merit, but the outside investigator apparently uncovered other, unrelated, issues within the fire department that led to at least Jefferson and the two firefighters not being reappointed.

Rumors heralded in the news media that the department was trying to shed complainers and whistle blowers with concerns about the department’s operating procedures and command staff, were not true, multiple sources said.

An equal number of equally anonymous sources insisted that purging the call firefighting staff of people who disagreed with department policies before a new fire chief is appointed were, in fact, part of the town administration’s agenda.