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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

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Felner informs panel he 'irrevocably' plans to step down as fire chief

Published 6:12 am, Wednesday, June 25, 2014
  • Fire Commission Chairman Craig Van Steenbergen, left, and Fire Chief Richard Felner, at the commission's special meeting Tuesday. Felner, who last month announced he would retire at the end of his contract in 2015, submitted a letter waiving a requirement that the commission notify him of a decision not to renew his contract. Photo: Genevieve Reilly / Fairfield Citizen
    Fire Commission Chairman Craig Van Steenbergen, left, and Fire Chief Richard Felner, at the commission's special meeting Tuesday. Felner, who last month announced he would retire at the end of his contract in 2015, submitted a letter waiving a requirement that the commission notify him of a decision not to renew his contract. Photo: Genevieve Reilly

 

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The Fire Commission convened a special meeting Tuesday to formally vote to not renew Fire Chief Richard Felner's contract, but Felner was one step ahead of them.

Felner submitted a letter to the commission dated June 12, "irrevocably" resigning effective July 1, 2015, and voluntarily waiving a contract requirement that the commission notify him of its intention not to enter into a new contract.

The fire chief, who has served in the Fire Department for 54 years, told the commission at its May meeting that he did not want the panel to renew his contract, but no formal vote was taken.

On Tuesday, the commission instead unanimously passed a resolution acknowledging Felner's waiver of the notification provision for the contract's non-renewal, as well as citing his years of service to the department.

Felner's last few years with the department have been marred by controversy, including an incident in which one of his assistant chief's alleged that Felner had slapped him.

An independent investigation conducted by a law firm concluded that Felner "more likely than not" slapped Assistant Chief George Gomola. However, no disciplinary action was ever meted out by the commission.

More recently, members of the Board of Finance raised questions over several promotions made by Felner shortly before the firefighters who were promoted retired from the department -- boosting their pension payments. After that, the commission voted to require that it be informed about all promotions.