Deputy Fire Chief Reid 'shocked' as panel dumps him

The Fire Commission Friday night voted to not renew Deputy Chief Art Reid's contract when it expires in December.
The Fire Commission Friday night voted to not renew Deputy Chief Art Reid's contract when it expires in December.Contributed photo/Genevieve Reilly

The Fire Commission voted Friday not to renew Deputy Fire Chief Art Reid's contract past its expiration date in December.

"I'm looking for the opportunity for qualified personnel to move up through the ranks," said Commissioner William Fitzpatrick, who made the motion not to renew Reid's contract. Voting with Fitzpatrick were Thomas Christie, Charlene Lebo, Dorothea Brennan and Patrick McCabe.

Commission Chairman Craig van Steenbergen and Frank Cieplinski voted against the motion.

The 5-2 vote not to renew his contact took Reid by surprise.

"I'm shocked at the decision of the board," said Reid, who has served as deputy chief for 12 years. He said he has put his "heart and soul" into the job and he felt, by all accounts, had done his job well.

Reid declined further comment Friday until he speaks with his lawyer.

Board of Finance member David Becker, a volunteer firefighter who showed up hoping to be given a chance to voice support for Reid's contract renewal, said the commission's actions were "disgraceful."

He said he has known and worked with Reid for 10 years, and while they didn't always agree, Reid always did his job. "It was bad enough that they made him re-apply," Becker said. "To now turn around and turn down his contract is nothing short of another disgraceful move on the part of this Fire Commission."

There was no public comment allowed at the Friday meeting, which Becker said was another demonstration of the "closed-door operations of this commission, which is frustrating to see because it does not accurately reflect the way the Fire Department works."

Before voting Fitzpatrick's motion, the commission huddled briefly behind closed doors to discuss a letter it had received from its lawyer regarding the contract-review process.

On hand for the meeting were two former commissioners, Susan Barrett and Richard Popilowski. In 2012, during similar discussions on Reid's contract, Barrett and Popilowski tried to reduce the contract extension to a year and a half, instead of two years. Their motion failed, and Reid's contract was extended for two years, although Popilowski voted against that motion.

Under the terms of Reid's contract, the commission was required to notify him by March 31 whether or not it planned to offer a renewal.

Van Steenbergen said over the last month, he has talked with deputy chiefs throughout the region, both in the police and fire services, about Reid, and their thoughts on his performance, character and leadership. He said he did not ask Fairfield Fire Chief Richard Felner, however. "The chief has voiced his opinion within the commission," van Steenbergen said. "All those that I've spoken to has all positive things to say. I was glad to hear the deputy chief we have in place at this point is very highly regarded in our town and in our region."

Cieplinski said he concurred with van Steenbergen, and had only heard positive feedback from Fire Department employees regarding Reid.

Other commissioners did not comment during the meeting, although Brennan, who seconded the motion not to renew Reid's contract, indicated she agreed with Fitzpatrick's reasoning.