District 2 residents seek to recall Bouley from Prudential Committee
After months of contentious meetings, angry letters, and heated debate over the future of the department, residents of Dartmouth’s Fire District 2 submitted a petition on Monday to recall Prudential Committee Chair Bob Bouley.
The petition, which garnered over 230 verified signatures, will leave Bouley with a choice of whether to resign willingly or face a special election to decide if he would keep his seat, and if not, who would replace him.
Committee members signaled that the special election would likely be held at the same time as the district’s regularly-scheduled elections on April 24, when Bouley’s fellow committee member — and political ally — Bill Coutu will be up for reelection.
Bouley was elected to the committee in April 2022 after receiving 139 votes in the district elections.
The recall petition was presented to the public at the Prudential Committee’s meeting on Feb. 13, however, Bouley was not present at the meeting as he is currently on vacation, committee members said.
Bouley could not be reached for comment on the matter.
Despite his absence, the Prudential Committee will have 10 days to notify Bouley of the petition after which he will have an additional five days to decide whether or not to resign.
As grounds for the recall, the petition alleges that Bouley “has acted to the detriment of the District and endangering the safety of the residents and buildings of the District.”
More specifically, it faults Bouley for removing Greg Edgcomb from his position as acting fire chief “without any process, and in violation of the Open Meeting Law and the District By-Laws” and for refusing to interview Edgcomb for the role of permanent fire chief.
Edgcomb, a Dartmouth native and career firefighter and EMT, served as the acting chief for nearly a year after the resignation of former-chief Tim Andre in November 2021.
A group of district residents had long feuded with Bouley and Coutu over their refusal to offer Edgcomb a permanent contract.
The two committee members had stood firm, however, stating that Edgcomb’s salary request of $115,000 per year was too much for the relatively small district to afford.
Ultimately, the committee decided to hire former District 1 firefighter Erick Turcotte for the job at a salary of $92,500 per year. However, committee member Ralph Medeiros noted that the district would also need to supply health insurance for Turcotte and his wife, something that would not have been required for Edgcomb, who was covered by his wife’s insurance.
Medeiros estimated that such a health plan would cost about $18,000 per year, of which the department would have to pay 60%, or about $10,800.
The committee’s attempts at cost saving have also been undercut by its dependence on legal advice from District Counsel Anthony Savastano, who has been present at many of the committee’s meetings.
According to department records, District 2 has already spent over $38,000 on legal expenses since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2022, with additional legal spending from January yet to be accounted for.
Those expenses are now threatening to push the department over its general fund budget. The department currently has just over $14,000 left of its $75,000 general fund appropriation with over a third of the fiscal year still to go.
The general fund is used to pay for the district’s annual meeting and elections, the annual audit, legal fees, computers, equipment, furniture, office supplies, payroll processing, postage, service agreements, FICA, Medicare and Mass. Health expenses, and more.
The excessive burn rate for that fund will likely lead the district to have to transfer more money into the fund from its “free cash,” a move that would require special approval from voters at the district’s annual meeting in May.
“Legal fees are off the charts,” Medeiros said. “There’s been turmoil but [Bouley and Coutu] have relied on Savastano for a lot of legal advice and unfortunately, it has cost the District a lot of money.”