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Board of Selectmen Minutes 9/29/10
Members present:        William Cavanaugh, Mark Karlberg, George Fuller

Others Present: Richard Furlong, David Jenkins, Hildegarde Freedman, David Bonney, Beth VanNess, Colleen O’Connor, Ann Spadafora, Steve Rosenthal, George Roberts, Gerry Galliher, Mark White, Rita Furlong, Susan Deacon, Lee White, Richard Cromwell, Thomas Koelle, Shirley Vachula, Ronald Casella, Ray Tarjick, John Vachula, Paul Mazut, Eva Bonney, Justin Elovirta, Jim Atwell, Mark Hanford, Linda Shaw, Ann Deely, Angie Woodard, Deborah Hall, Hope Robitaille, John Hall, Derek Gentile, Stu Besnoff, Siegfried Hoppe, Ellen Hoppe, Jean Godbout, Celine Godbout, David Devane, John Deacon, Paul Sintone, Barbara Murray, Nancy Devane, Sandy Pinkham, Jim Curtin, Robert Ronzio, Arnold Drucker, Joan Terry Drucker, Jessica Giarolo, Kristopher Massini, Mike Ozner, Craig Pedercini, Ray Tryon, Peter Scala, Harry Jennings, Robert Czerwinski, Charles Durfee, and others

7:04 PM Meeting opened.

It was announced that Beth VanNess was audio taping the meeting.  David Scribner of the Berkshire
Record was taking photographs.

Selectmen’s Comments and Announcements: Bill announced that he would not need to have surgery after all so he would not miss any Selectmen’s meetings.  He thanked everyone for their thoughts and prayers and asked people to pray for Barbara Stuhlmann who has had health problems.

Public Input: Stu Besnoff from Alpine Solar wanted the Selectmen to know that his company specializes in solar equipment and thought that Becket, since it has been designated a “Green Community” would be looking for this type of equipment.  George asked if he could leave off a business card.

The Selectmen asked John Hall if he wished to go into executive session to discuss complaints against him.  He stated that he did not want to go into executive session.  George advised that the only people who will be allowed to speak would be the fire chief, the attorneys representing the town and the fire chief, the Selectmen and a representative of the fire department.  There would be no public input allowed and if there was any speaking or shouting from anyone they would be asked to leave.  He introduced David Jenkins, the town attorney and Ann Deely, John Hall’s attorney.  George asked John if he wanted to address anything about why the fire department voted that they did not have confidence in him.  Ann Deely asked if the Selectmen would be going over everything that was in the two page unsigned memo from the fire department.  George advised that he would like to go over the safety issues that were brought up in the memo.  Ann Deely explained that there is a difference between the fire department and the firemen’s association.  The firemen’s association is a social group that raises money for the fire department.  She described the two page document as being slanderous and something to ruin the chief’s reputation.  David Jenkins thought that it would be good for John to make any rebuttal statements for what was addressed in the two page document.  Ann felt that she should have a chance to speak for John about what was in this document.  George advised that when he went to the meeting with the fire department, the things that were discussed then were safety issues with the equipment.  He also advised that John did not defend himself at that meeting and that gives the appearance of him being guilty of what the firefighters were accusing him of doing or not doing.  George felt that some of the things that were in this document was hearsay and is not concerned with it; he is concerned about the equipment that was not up-to-date or not working at all.  The first item on the list of things was missing fire extinguishers.  John admitted that he should have replaced them.  The next issue was broken pagers.  John stated that if the firemen do not tell him their pagers need to be repaired he will not know that they need to be repaired.  John advised that the pagers cost about $75 to repair each one.  George advised that if there was a money issue, John should come to the Selectmen to find the money because the firemen need this equipment.  Kris Massini, who represented the fire department, stated that he knew a few firemen had problems with their pagers and to the best of his knowledge they were brought to John’s attention.  John stated that there has been an ongoing problem with how the calls are sent out through dispatch.  He has asked dispatch time and time again to send the calls over the two towers but they send it out on only one tower so half the firemen do not get the calls.  As far as the repairs on the trucks, George advised that John should be going through Lenny and not Mark White when he needs something repaired.  Kris feels that if the town can do the repairs to save money that is great but some things should go out in a timely fashion to get repaired.  John explained about how long it took to repair the one fire truck.  The truck’s foam system went down eight months ago and the company that normally fixes it took three months to get the part and then realized that it was the wrong part.  It was recently repaired.  Kris stated that if the company could not repair the truck then John should have taken it somewhere else to have it repaired so it did not take so long.  The next issue was the defibrillators.  There was a recall on them and Kris advised that there was some issue regarding the cost of shipping to send them back to the company so they have been out of service.  Richard advised that the defibrillator that was at fire station #2 has a dead battery and needs a software upgrade.  He is waiting for the defibrillator from fire station #1 to see if it is the same one as in fire station #2 so they can be repaired at once.  He also advised that the pads expired back in 2007.  He does not feel that these defibrillators should be in the trucks or the fire station if they are not in working order.  David Jenkins asked John how long the defibrillators were not in working order.  He stated about three or four months.  Kris advised that it was closer to a year since the defibrillators stopped working.  David asked if the fire department keep track of when the equipment was inspected.  John advised that they do not have written records of inspections done to the equipment.  Kris was asked if the firemen reported to John that the defibrillators were broken.  He advised that this was brought up to John a number of times but he always gave the same answer that there was a recall on the machines and he did not feel he should pay for shipping these out because of this recall.  Ann replied that there were four other officers that could have done something to get these machines repaired but no one did anything.  Kris advised that John never delegated anything to the other officers because if he had they would be more than willing to help out.  Ann feels that the firemen are upset with a totally different issue and they are just bringing these things up because they are upset with John.  George asked about the air compressor.  John advised that the air compressor has not been working for about four or five years.  John explained that the air compressor fills the air packs that the firemen wear on their backs when they go into a fire.  Bill asked how the bottles get filled now.  John answered that a mutual aid town can fill them at the fire or anytime they need to be filled.  Briefly discussed doing periodical inspections on the fire equipment.  George feels that John should have come to the Board if he needed money to repair equipment.  Discussed the fire extinguishers that were not operable for about four years.  Bill asked John how he justified buying a generator from his son-in-law.  John explained that he told his son-in-law that he was looking for a generator and he found one that was a reasonable price.  Bill asked if John ever filled out paperwork and filed it with the town clerk.  John replied that he did not know he had to do this.  Briefly discussed why the generator had not been working for years.  Bill asked John if he ever had beer in the chief’s vehicle.  He replied that he had beer in the vehicle once in a while.  Kris advised that he and several firefighters noticed beer in the chief’s vehicle when he was on calls particularly when he responded to a fatal accident in Hinsdale.  Bill asked if John ever approved paying a stipend to anyone who did not meet the qualifications for receiving one.  He said he had.  Bill asked John how he would proceed if he continued being fire chief.  He said he would delegate duties to other officers and he would not transport beer in the vehicle.  It was brought up that people are afraid to volunteer to become firefighters because they are intimidated by the association because some members are bullies.  Kris asked that that remark be retracted because there are anti-bullying laws in effect and the association does not bully anyone.  Richard advised that the issue that does not seem to be any closer to being resolved is that most of the firefighters have voted no confidence in the fire chief and if the volunteer firemen walk then it would amount to John and a few volunteers to run the department along with the mutual aid communities.  He also advised that the mutual aid towns have their own problems recruiting volunteers so it would not work for very long.  Ann gave her closing statement stating that John Hall is a very dedicated fire chief and should not be removed because the association does not like him.  Kris stated that the firefighter’s main concerns were the safety issues.  He also stated that the firemen would not abandon the fire department if John continued being the fire chief.  David made a statement about the liability the town would have if the fire department continued running with equipment that was not up-to-date or broken and the chief’s inability to keep the fire department and the residents of Becket safe because of this.  Bill asked if there was any way this situation could be rectified if John remained the fire chief.  Kris stated that the association gave the Selectmen all of the information and it is up to them to decide.  He stated that he does not believe that there would be an easy reconciliation between the fire chief and the association.  George asked if the Selectmen could take a few minutes to consult with their counsel.  David advised that because they are in open session they could not do this unless they voted to go into executive session to discuss potential litigation which has been raised by the fire chief’s attorney.  They could also go into executive session to instruct their attorney with respect to negotiations with the chief and his counsel.  Bill motioned to go into executive session to discuss potential litigation and negotiations with non-union personnel, Mark seconded.  Roll call vote: Mark-aye, Bill-aye, George-aye.  The meeting will reconvene after the executive session adjourns.  The time was 8:50 p.m.

The meeting reopened at 9:32 p.m.

Each of the Selectmen made a comment on how they felt John was running the department.  Mark felt that John should have been doing regular inspections of all of the safety equipment that the firefighters use and the residents rely on but he was not doing them and that concerned him.  Bill was hoping that John would come forward to accept responsibility for the equipment problems and to try to rectify the issues he had with the firefighters but he does not feel John made any effort to work things out.  He feels that John has done an outstanding job in his dedication to the fire department but he failed to keep the firemen and the townspeople safe by letting things go for too long before trying to rectify the problems.  George agrees with most of what Mark and Bill has said and feels that John has slacked off and should not have gotten to the situation that he is in.  Mark moved that the Board of Selectmen vote pursuant to the town charter of the Town of Becket to terminate the services of the fire chief and to instruct the Town Administrator to transmit to the fire chief a notice of termination for the reason of the fire chief’s continued neglect of his duties, inefficiency and incompetence and that the fire chief remain on paid administrative leave until the conclusion of the ten day notice period, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

9:40 PM Mark motioned to adjourn, Bill seconded.  All in favor.

Respectfully submitted,                                                         _______________________________
Nina Weiler, Secretary                                                          George Fuller, Chairman