A Waterbury Fire Department captain may have been on paid injury leave recently, but Waterbury police arrested him Friday amidst an investigation claiming he responded to calls and taught fire training classes in Connecticut during that time period, according to the Republican American.
Michael J. Farrell, 48, of Avon, is facing charges of first-degree larceny and workers' compensation fraud for an amount greater than $2,000, both felonies, according to the Connecticut judicial website.
Avon fire department officials learned of Farrell's Waterbury arrest Friday. He appeared in Waterbury Superior Court that day.
"As far as what’s going on with him, that’s a Waterbury issue," Ken Sedlak, president of the Board of Directors, said Sunday.
June 1 was the listed offense date for the charges. The Republican American reported that Avon department records indicate that Farrell responded to two calls in June, however Sedlak said he could not confirm that this was the case.
“If he did, we would investigate that internally and treat that as a personnel issue," Sedlak said.
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Farrell has been a volunteer firefighter in Avon for about 30 years, according to Sedlak. During part of that time, Farrell served as deputy fire chief. He is also the chairman of Avon's Water Polution Control Authority, according to the Avon town website.
Sedlak declined to discuss whether the department has taken disciplinary action in light of the news about Farrell's arrest. He said it is against department policy to release further details about personnel matters. However, Sedlak did confirm Farrell is currently on leave.
"Michael has been on leave for some time now," Sedlak said.
Farrell has been on leave since last spring, Sedlak said, but he declined to release why Farrell is on leave in Avon.
The town of Waterbury paid him about $20,000 for "disability benefits" since the end of March while he was on leave from his job as captain of the Waterbury Fire Department, the Republican American reported. While on injury leave on Waterbury's dime, he was paid $100 for teaching a training class at Wolcott Fire Academy and $648 for Connecticut Fire Academy classes, according to the Waterbury newspaper.
Sedlak said that fire departments vary in terms of their rules and restrictions for leave time. In Avon, if a volunteer firefighter is not able to perform the function he or she is supposed to do because of an injury, that person would typically be allowed medical leave. But that is subject to review by department officials and depends on the person's role in the department.
“We would evaluate the individual’s injury independently," Sedlak said, noting that department leaders also consider whether or not the person can complete administrative tasks. “We would evaluate each situation independently to see how would affect his performance."
Farrell was released from custody after agreeing to a written promise to appear in court on Oct. 15 in lieu of paying a bond. The judge is awaiting his plea.
Avon Patch has left a message with the office of Farrell's attorney, Francis Grady. Farrell didn't know teaching classes during paid leave was barred, Grady told the judge, according to the Republican American.
More details will be provided as they become available.
Editor's Note: If there's something in this article that you think should be corrected or if you have questions or a news tip give Avon Patch Editor Jessie Sawyer a ring at 860-356-6339 or shoot her an e-mail at Jessie.Sawyer@patch.com.