District No. 1 Fire Chief to be let go in June

Apr 11, 2019

Chief of Fire District No. 1 Brad Ellis looks set to lose his job in June this year after the committee in charge of the district’s finances said that it would allow his contract to expire at a meeting on April 10.

The Prudential Committee for the district had previously declined to comment on the matter of the Chief’s position at a meeting in March.

“I’m numb,” Chief Ellis said after the meeting. “I really am numb.”

During the meeting at the Fire Station on Bridge Street, the committee voted on budget items line by line while Chief Ellis and a small crowd of Dartmouth residents looked on.

When their attention turned to the Fire Chief’s salary, Committee member Jeff Costa excused himself from the discussion.

Committee Chair and recently re-elected Town Select Board member John Haran read from a letter prepared by town counsel Anthony Savastano.

The lawyer stated in the letter that the committee is under no obligation to renew or extend the Chief’s current contract — which expires on June 30 — or negotiate a new one with him.

“Simply stated, the Prudential Committee can hire a new Fire Chief or reappoint Chief Ellis depending on its preferences,” the letter read.

After entering the contents of the letter into the record, Haran said “I am not going to go into contract negotiations with the Chief.”

Chief Ellis noted that his contract also states he would have an annual review — but that he has had only one review in the three years he has held the role. During that review, he added, he was given a score of “a strong four” out of five.

In response, the committee cited dissatisfaction with a report written by the Chief about firehouse rules and regulations that was “riddled with grammatical errors.”

After a brief back-and-forth, Haran ended by saying “Did I vote for you initially? No.”

Before the committee could move on to the next item, district resident Bob Pusateri commented from the floor.

“It seems to me that renewal of the contract doesn’t seem to show any good faith in terms of you interacting with the Chief, in terms of what you expect of him, how his performance was, and what does the community feel about the performance of the station,” he said.

Haran stated simply: “I wish to take the department in a new direction. That’s all I’ll say on the issue.”

But he declined to comment on what that direction would be.

A woman who failed to identify herself stood up and asked, “Don’t we have a say in who represents us in our district as Fire Chief? To feel safe, don’t we have a say as a community?”

She added, “He protects my property. Where’s my say?”

Haran responded that residents elect the Prudential Committee, which appoints the Fire Chief.

The woman noted that the next Prudential Committee elections are after June — after Chief Ellis’ contract expires.

“Great. So we don’t have a say. We’ll remember that,” she finished.

As soon as the meeting adjourned, Haran slipped away, followed by Costa.

Resident Tom Anders expressed dissatisfaction with the events of the evening.

“This was my first meeting that I attended, and I was appalled...This, to me, was not democracy. This was an old boys’ network running a meeting that was open to the public — but really not.”

Haran said in a statement after the meeting: “My decision was based on input and observation.”

As for Chief Ellis, he’s still reeling.

“That’s the way John runs things around here,” he said. “It’s his way or the highway, and I guess I got the highway.”