Disciplinary hearing set for embattled firefighters

WESTFIELD- The Fire Commission has set a date for a disciplinary hearing for the three city firefighters being accused of tarnishing the name of a superior officer. 

Fire Capt. Rebecca Boutin and firefighters Kyle Miltimore and David Kennedy will meet the Commission in a disciplinary hearing on Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. at the Little River Fire Station. During the Nov. 25 Special Fire Commission meeting, the three firefighters chose to have a public meeting rather than in executive session. 

The hearing is related to an investigation that took place between April 2 and June 5 of 2018. The three collectively claimed that Fire Chief Patrick Egloff, who was the deputy chief at that time, had committed two sexual assaults on female members of the public. 

City Attorney Tim Netkovik presented a request for the hearing and a request for authorization to terminate the employment of the three firefighters. 

Attorney John Connor, who represents the firefighters union, claimed that there was no recommendation of termination from a member of the fire department’s administration, so the commission would not have authorization to do so. 

Netkovik then informed them that Deputy Chief Andy Hart had written a recommendation of termination to each fire commissioner on Nov. 18. The three firefighters and their attorneys claimed that they had not been made aware of such a letter. 

The firefighter’s attorney then said that they are not sure what they are specifically being accused of, to which Commissioner Lee Bennett said that they will produce a charge letter detailing the specific accusations before the hearing takes place. 

“This has been on the books for over a year sir,” said Bennett, “It’s time to close some books.”

During the meeting, CaBoutin read the following statement on behalf of all three of the firefighters facing the accusations:

“There is no justification for noticing us for dismissal. The proposal to terminate us can only be based on a desire to punish us for cooperating with a state police investigation. The report was clearly an attempt to target the three of us instead of investigating the serious allegation at issue. It is important to distinguish the report’s vicious personal attacks and speculative rumor mongering, from the evidence. It must be understood that despite the hysterical tone from the report from Dawn McDonald, the fact is that the evidence of that report shows that Chief Egloff admitted to sexually assaulting a woman, a member of the public. Then a second woman did in fact tell multiple members of this department that she was sexually assaulted by Chief Egloff. The report shamefully mocks, and attempts to humiliate this victim while still admitting that she did tell the firefighters that “something” was done to her by Chief Egloff. 

“Her text messages included in the report corroborate this strongly, and show that she was grateful for the report. Based on substantive evidence in the report, it is clear that we told the state police the truth, and it was the State Police that called Kyle and myself. David’s termination was proposed because he filed grievances. Instead of recognizing us for telling the truth, instead of respecting the victims, you have promoted the perpetrator and are now proposing to terminate the messengers that brought the bad news forward. Doing so sends the following message to the citizens of westfield: If a fire department official attacks a member of the public, those who report this will be punished even as the perpetrator is promoted. Victims, even if they say nothing, are apt to be attacked by the city. Employees who get together to discuss job issues about their supervisor will be punished despite their legal rights.

“If the commission proceeds it would be violating Massachusetts general laws c.268 13b, a criminal statute prohibiting  threatening, attempting to cause economic injury to or harassing a witness at any stage of the investigation. If the commission proceeds, it will be committing an unfair labor practice under Massachusetts General Law 150e by threatening and interfering with us to exercise our rights to engage in lawful concerted activity for mutual aid and protection.”

When asked for comment, Egloff only said, “The City does not comment on pending personnel matters.”

Fire Commission Chair Albert Masciadrelli said that the Fire Commission at the time of the investigation last year was largely shielded from the facts of the case. 

At certain times we got bits of information when we authorized the law dept to take certain steps,” said Masciadrelli. “Now the law departmen has finalized the investigation and will now be presenting their findings to us.”

Masciadrelli said that the Dec. 10 hearing will be scheduled as executive session, but that the three firefighters may choose again to opt for a public hearing.

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