The Fire Commission, after huddling behind closed doors several times Thursday night, voted to offer Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid a two-year extension of his contract.

The commission, however, was split over renewing Reid's contract. The pact was approved on a 5-2 vote, with Richard Popilowksi and Dr. Thomas Christy voting in opposition. Approval of the two-year renewal came after an earlier motion to extend Reid's contract by a year and a half failed, with Popilowski, and Susan Barrett, who made the motion, the only votes in favor.

Reid's current three-year contract expires in December.

The commission's handling of Reid's contract struck one audience member as retaliation for the deputy chief's reporting a complaint filed in January by Assistant Chief George Gomola, contending that he was slapped by Chief Richard Felner. An investigative report into the confrontation concluded that Felner "more likely than not" slapped Gomola, though the 74-year-old chief has not been publicly disciplined for the incident.

"It seems like some sort of punishment," Robert Sullivan said because of "other activities" in the department.

"The suggestion of retaliation is vigorously denied," said Patrick McCabe, the newest member of the Fire Commission.

And Barrett said the length of a contract is not automatic. "We're focusing on the future of our department," she said.

The vote extends Reid's contract until 2014, when Felner's contract also expires.

The commission did not answer any public questions regarding the length of the contract. Town Attorney Stanton Lesser and First Selectman Michael, who both attended the closed-door deliberations, told the panel that public comment was for comment only, not questions and answers.

"Obviously, I can't comment on the details of the executive session," Reid said. "They've extended my contract for two years. This is something I'm in agreement with and I'm extremely happy to serve the town for another two years and I will do so to the best of my ability."

Under the terms of Reid's current contract, the commission was required to inform him whether the pact would be renewed before it was to expire. At a special meeting in March, also conducted behind closed doors, the commission failed to reach a consensus on the pact, but Reid waived the notification deadline until the April meeting.