Fire commission, attorneys, discuss active grievances against the department

Temporary Fire Chief Patrick Egloff (Blue shirt) just after he was appointed by the Fire Commission. (Photo by Peter Currier)

WESTFIELD- The monthly Westfield Fire Commission meeting was filled with tension Monday evening as the quorum discussed two active grievances against the department. The meeting was the first in which Acting Chief Patrick Egloff and newly appointed commissioner C. Lee Bennett were present.

The two grievances were filed by Fire Captain Rebecca Boutin and Firefighter Kyle Miltimore on January 16th. Due to a cancellation of the monthly meeting in February, Monday evening was the first time the grievances came before the commission. Commission Chair Albert Masciadrelli read the description of the grievance filed by Miltimore.

“The City of Westfield has failed to promote a workplace that is free of discriminatory harassment of any type, including retaliation. The City of Westfield has failed to provide a workplace free of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The grievance is filed in accordance with article 4, section 4 of local 1111 Union contract terms in condition of employment, and article 1, section 2 which prohibits discrimination in any way on account of lawful union activity. The most recent activity happened on January 16th, 2019, when a photograph was found in public view in a living quarters of the firehouse with my head decapitated from my body. The department is engaging in harassment and retaliation and tolerating such activity which stems from prior complaints of and supports for prior complaints of sexual harassment within the department and the reporting of sexual harassment/assaults on a member(s) of the public. It also stems from meetings and discussions I had regarding the situation which constitutes/concerns protected activity under c150-a which constitutes lawful union activities as described in the contract,” said Miltimore’s grievance.

Boutin’s grievance was worded almost the exact same way, with only one addition. It adds, “There was also a violation of article 4, section 1b, which states that all captains shall be recognized and respected as commanding officers.”

In short, Boutin and Miltimore allege that they are being harassed and discriminated against from within the department for making past harassment complaints against an unnamed individual.

Attorney Krok advised the commission that Acting Chief Egloff denied the grievance’s, saying there was no evidence of ‘anti-union activity’ or harassment as alleged in the complaint. Egloff

New Fire Commissioner, C. Lee Bennett.

referred the matter to the city’s personnel department, who has conducted an investigation. Krok said that the results of the investigation have not been released.

Because Egloff denied the grievance, Boutin elevated the matter to the Fire Commission, who Krok said must make their own determination. A complaint had also been filed with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination. That complaint references previous actions taken by the commission, according to Krok.

“Anything you do on this particular grievance will impact that current litigation,” said Krok.

When the grievances, both of which are a ‘Step 2’ grievance, are risen to the commission, the commission has the right to hear the matter if they so choose. If they do not, said Krok, the grievances can be elevated to ‘step 3’ which would bring the grievances to the Mayor to hear the matter.

Krok advised the commission that they essentially had three options. They could hear the matter and sustain it, meaning they would agree with Egloff’s decision to deny it. They can hear the matter and disagree with Egloff’s assessment, or they can move the grievance to step three without hearing it at all.

Commissioners Masciadrelli, Bennett, and Olearcek voted to move the grievance to step three, reasoning that they do not know enough information to decide on the matter.

Maurice Cahillane, the attorney representing Boutin and Miltimore, said that a major issue with the situation is that the Fire Commission has never heard from the two about what happened, or about the nature of the investigative report done in the commission’s name. He repeated the claims made in the grievances that they had been ostracized and harassed within the fire department. They cited notices of termination that were voided by the Superior Court, that had never been rescinded by the department.

“These individuals are being discriminated against and harassed because they made a truthful report to the state police,” said Cahillane, “they cooperated with the state police the way any citizen or public employee should.”

He added that Boutin and Miltimore were being blamed and attacked for holding meetings to decide what to do with information they knew about a ‘high official’ in the fire department. Krok responded by reiterating to the commission that any action they took during the meeting could be used against them in an active lawsuit.

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