New fire chief selected, but name withheld till deal is sealed
Published 6:43 am, Friday, July 31, 2015
The Fire Commission has chosen a new fire chief between two finalists for the job, but won’t announce the name until a contract is negotiated.
The commission voted 5-0 Thursday to accept a search committee’s recommendation after it interviewed both finalists — Fairfield Assistant Fire Chief Scott Bisson and Norwalk Fire Chief Dennis McCarthy.
Fire Chief Richard Felner is retiring after more than 50 years with the department. His service was to end July 1, but the commission extended his contract for three months in order to complete the search for his replacement.
Not voting were Commissioners Thomas Christie and Patrick McCabe. Christie did not attend the special meeting, while McCabe left the meeting after Bisson’s interview prior to the vote.
The commission spent just under an hour with each candidate behind closed doors. Sources said several other members of the Fairfield Fire Department applied for the chief’s position. Bisson and McCarthy, who is a Fairfield resident, were chosen from a list of 10 candidates.
“I have great faith in the process,” said Assistant Chief Chris Tracy, who serves as the head of the local firefighters’ union “I look forward to their decision and this department moving forward under new leadership.”
The last few years of Felner’s tenure were not without controversy. He was accused by Assistant Chief George Gomola of slapping him in the face, and an investigation concluded that it was “more likely than not” that Felner hit Gomola. Felner was not disciplined, however, by the commission.
The commission also made changes to the way promotions, whether permanent or temporary, were handled. That change was made after the Board of Finance raised questions about some promotions made shortly before an employee’s retirement. Those late-career promotions boosted several employees’ pension payments.