By Genevieve Reilly

Fire Chief Richard Felner, the subject of a recent investigation into whether he slapped an assistant chief, received a citation at Thursday's Fire Commission meeting.

Fire Commissioner Susan Barrett presented the citation from the town's state legislative delegation, congratulating Felner on his 53 years of service with the Fire Department.

The investigative report, obtained by the Fairfield Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act, concluded that Felner, 73, "more likely than not" had slapped Assistant Chief George Gomola during a January confrontation at Fire Department headquarters. Over the course of the investigation, the commission met behind closed doors on three separate occasions.

Felner has not been publicly disciplined and disputes the report's conclusions.

The citation, from state Sen. John McKinney, state Reps. Tony Hwang and Brenda Kupchick, all Republicans, and Democratic state Rep. Kim Fawcett, states: "Your leadership, and community-forward approach has created a safer, better Fairfield for all residents. You commitment to the Fairfield Firefighters Association Local 1426 and to the town directorship of emergency management are pivotal positions within our community. Congratulaations on your fifty-third anniversary with many more years to come." It is dated March 8.

Gomola, who had just had a root canal at the time he said he was slapped, filed his complaint with town officials on Jan. 12, two days after the incident which occured at fire headquarters after a monthly meeting between the chief and assistant chiefs. During the investigation, Felner, along with town officials, insisted he was on vacation, although the report consistently refers to that time as when the chief was "out pending investigation." Central to the report, and its conclusion, was a statement from Felner's secretary that immediately following the confrontation with Gomola, Felner came to her and said, "I just slapped Gomola." Felner, however, said what he did was simply touch Gomola as an expression of camaraderie.

Following a brief business meeting Thursday, the Fire Commission again went behind closed doors. In attendance were Felner, the commmission and newly appointed Town Attorney Stanton Lesser. After about an hour, the panel went back into public session but took no votes.

greilly@ctpost.com; 203-556-2771; http:/twitter.com/GreillyPost