Fire Commission Chairman Richard Popilowski has resigned in the wake of questions raised by a firefighter over potential conflicts posed by his appearances at mandated fire-training classes in his role as a United Way employee.
"I'm resigning because I think there comes a time when public service and work collide together," Popilowksi told the Fairfield Citizen on Friday. "In this particular case, that's what happened."
Firefighters were required to attend training sessions in March on fire reporting. At the beginning of the sessions, Popilowski and a second United Way employee made a pitch for the non-profit agency. Firefighter Wayne Parks complained that day to Popilowksi about what he felt was a conflict of interest, and later lodge a complaint with Fire Chief Richard Felner, who gave Popilowski permission to attend, and First Selectman Michael Tetreau.
According to Popilowski, Felner made the decision that the mandatory training sessions were the best time to have the United Way personnel attend to make their annual fundrasing pitch. Department personnel had already received emails regarding the United Way campaign.
Popilowski said Friday the United Way would never want to "to put anyone in an uncomfortable position," and said firefighters were able to opt out of the presentation. Popilowski made the introduction and closing remarks, while a "seasoned team leader made the presentations while I sat in the room to learn. It is unfortunate that anyone may have felt uncomfortable and I am sorry that was the case."
Popilowski said decided to resign from the Fire Commission "in order for the United Way not to get hurt."
"I don't see a distinction between a high standard of ethical behavior in one's public service and in one's job," Parks said, when informed of Popilowski's decision to resign from the commission. "The behavior is ingrained in the individual. I hope that this changing of the guard will usher in a new era of responsibility and accountability for our local politicians."
A Republican, Popilowski served on the Fire Commission for more than eight years. Prior to that, he had been a member of the Board of Education for seven and a half years.
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