Jun 212014

Groton Board of Selectmen Chair Josh Degen reads the town’s “Non-Reappoinment” news release Friday

A two-paragraph news release read at Friday morning’s Board of Selectmen’s meeting sheds a little more light on the “non-reappointment” of several Groton call firefighters by documenting the process the town followed, even though the actual reasons for individual’s termination are not discussed. Read by BoS Chair Josh Degen, the release is from the entire board.

The release explains that for the decades during which firefighters and EMTs have not been reappointed to their jobs annually, they have enjoyed a status as “holdover” employees. That has stopped, and the Fire Department will now follow the model of the Police Department, which reappoints its staff annually:

“The process of annual appointments of public safety officials is something that has been practiced by the town and is undertaken every year with police officers, dispatchers and other positions within the police department. It represents a ‘best practice’ in the overall management of positions with public safety responsibility and, as the fire department is transitioning to a new administration, the annual reappointment process will be followed by the town going forward.”

The omission of all fire department personnel from the annual appointment process for decades by town officials, and during the five years of Town Manager Mark Haddad’s direct supervision of the fire department, was not explained.

In an interview, Degen said, “Obviously it’s been a repeated oversight for many years. While the appointments of the police department, communications, and other departments and volunteers have occurred for many years, the fire department has not been included. It was an oversight of the fire chief, of the board of selectmen, and of the town manager. And now it’s been corrected.

The second paragraph of the news release restates town official’s contention that the town cannot release any information related to individual personnel controversies.

It then outlines the process town officials followed leading to the decision not to reappoint Deputy Chief Clarence Jefferson and firefighters Ben Miele and Steve Tervo. Apparently, some facts or discrepancies surfaced during a town investigation into a harassment complaint between fire department employees that were not directly related to that investigation. Instead of using the same private investigator who conducted the investigation to follow up, the board of selectmen had Haddad conduct interviews with unnamed people, including town employees who ultimately report to him. The results of the interviews and “overall department operations” were reviewed by Chief Joe Bosselait, who either made the decision, or concurred with a decision, not to reappoint the firefighters.

A Public Information Request for documents related to the investigation and subsequent actions has been partially fulfilled by the town, but nothing related to Haddad’s “interviews” has been released.

The news release text is:

We can say, however, that after the conclusion of the investigation of alleged harassment within the fire department, the Board of Selectmen reviewed the investigator’s findings and asked the Town Manager to conduct follow up interviews. After the Town Manager’s interviews, and after reviewing overall department operations, Chief Bosselait advised certain individuals that they would not be reappointed. We respect Chief Bosselait’s decisions in this regard and are confident in stating that his decisions were motivated only by doing what he thought was in the best interests of the Fire Department.

Download the complete news release.