Avon Firefighter Arrested; Charged with Workers' Comp Fraud, Larceny

Michael Farrell, of Avon, was in court Friday during an investigation claiming he responded to fire calls in Avon and taught classes while on paid injury leave as Waterbury fire captain.

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.

Karen Cianci September 10, 2012 at 12:34 PM
This sounds crazy. Arrested for teaching a class? Arrested for responding to a fire as a volunteer? If Farrell was on leave from Waterbury, perhaps the leave was due to a physical impairment which precluded him from climbing a ladder, or entering a burning building and NOT from teaching a class or responding in person only to a fire. Wow. This takes the cake, seriously. Advise Farrell to repay any money earned and tell Waterbury to go arrest some real criminals.
Paul Blawie September 10, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Karen,, I couldn't agree more. Mike Farrell is an upstanding citizen and a contributing member of our town, where he's lived his entire life. A volunteer fireman and Chairman of Avon's Water Pollution Control Authority, does that sound like the type of individual who'd be guilty of fraud? I smell a political rat. Leave the man alone!
Paul Cloutier September 10, 2012 at 08:46 PM
This is absurd. 20+ years serving the public and protecting the people of Waterbury and Avon. Teaching a class instead of sitting at home doing nothing with his time...And they are going to arrest him. What is this world coming to. They should be ashamed.
Linda Betances September 10, 2012 at 10:57 PM
I agree, If he was on leave then it was up to them to put in Writing what he could and could not do! Everything else at at job is made pretty clear to an employee at least any job I ever had. Before they go destroying a mans life, Do Your Own Homework and get all the Facts that you should have in the first place!! Good Luck to you Mr. Farrell, Oh yes, before I forget, My father was a firefighter in his day too! as many of Cantons fine Men were. So, "My Hats off to all that Served and help their communities in time of need"
Rich Shillington September 11, 2012 at 01:48 AM
I would like to stress that Jessie’s headline is a bit irresponsible and misleading. The Avon VOLUNTEER Fire Department has nothing to do with this. It is an outstanding organization that protects and serves this community. You wouldn’t know it from reading that headline. Her comment when asked about it was “The headline and article never say or imply the Avon fire department is at fault. If people misinterpret it, that is unfortunately something that's out of my control.” The headline is “Avon Firefighter Arrested; Charged with Workers' Comp Fraud, Larceny”. I don’t see how this cannot be misinterpreted. You be the judge.
Capri Frank September 11, 2012 at 02:42 AM
As I see it, he has made an outstanding contribution to the town of Avon. The rest will be dealt with in another forum. It sounds as though he is well respected and deserves the support of his community. It is not an Avon issue but instead a Waterbury issue. Let us not forget, his voice still needs to be heard.
Chris Masi September 11, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I have taught with Mr. Farrell and have known him for many yrs. both inside the fire dept. and out. He is not the kind of person to do this intentionaly. Before destroying a mans life and career, let's hear his side of the story. I support you. Chris Masi
Jessie Sawyer (Editor) September 11, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Thanks for sharing your perspectives. Avon Patch would love to tell Michael Farrell's side of the story. I have left a message with his family and his attorney to offer him the opportunity to comment. I will provide an update if more information becomes available. Jessie Sawyer Editor, Avon Patch
Kelly P September 11, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Once again, a bit of low level journalism from Patch, which routinely demonstrates strong tendency to focus on the sensationalism with total disregard for assembling the full set of facts for an article. There would be no benefit for the subject of this article, or his attorney, from responding to the author's inquiry. As the subject of a criminal investigation a statement could affect his defense. The merit of the charges has yet to be proved, but consider that the terms of disability benefits typically require no payment for work, and anything that tends to show ability to work (meaning no disability) would raise a question about the legitimacy of the benefits. The author could easily have researched this, but she didn't. Instead, she copies from police reports, the minimal information on the court website and the reporting of other journalists. She puts words in quotation marks without indicating the significance of why, and in so doing implies doubt, in this case, about whether disability benefits were legitimate. Where is the direct contact with the prosecutor's offense to inquire about the basis for the charges? As for the author's response - she posts quite a few headlines that are subject to meaningful misinterpretation. Consider why - sensationalism and borderline gossipy articles are her stock and trade all too often.
Rocco Mancini September 12, 2012 at 09:56 PM
Michael Farrell should go to jail for defrauding the Taxpayers of Waterbury. Taxes are too high! If Farrell did this in the private sector he would also be fired! If someone else was on Workers' Compensation or Social Security Disability (working another job) they would be in jail! He is just another Liberal Union Government Worker who has the entitlement attitude. He is probably an Obama Supporter. He is overcompensated to begin with!
Joey September 13, 2012 at 01:16 PM
Michael was targeted by an *anonymous* writer who knew where to look for information and short of FOI the writer had to have been someone in the Avon Volunteer Fire Department or a former member still in contact with the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. It has all the appearance of a personal vendetta backed by elements within the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. It should be noted the *author* of this and related articles writes most of the articles about the Avon Volunteer Fire Department and it would be unusual if the *author* didn't first submit the article to the President of the Avon Volunteer Fire Department Inc. Could the headline have been tweaked specifically to imply things not necessarily found in the body of the article? Stranger things have happened, in journalism and in the Avon Volunteer Fire Department. There is *some* ambiguity as to when Michael was suspended by Avon Volunteer Fire Department. Are they covering up the fact they knew he was on medical leave in Waterbury but chose to ignore it for the time so he could teach a class for them? Was he set up? Likely because of the dollar amount the town of Waterbury felt it had to act, although an arrest is a far cry from a conviction but the Avon Volunteer Fire Department *suspension* of Michael was most likely one more in a line of kangaroo courts the Avon Volunteer Fire Department uses to silence or remove people critical of it and there is no court of appeals, it's all in who you know.
Jessie Sawyer (Editor) September 13, 2012 at 02:26 PM
Joey, Thanks for your comment and questions. According to the affidavit in Waterbury Superior Court, the letter sent to the city of Waterbury had no return address and was anonymous. As for your other question, Avon Patch does not let anyone from the public see stories before they are published. The exact dates of the suspension in Avon have not been made available at this time. If new information arises, I will provide an update. -Jessie
Shaun September 14, 2012 at 02:12 AM
To rocco... Go ahead. you run into a burning building, at any hour of the day or night, and help someone that you have no idea who they are or what they do, compensated as a paid fire fighter, or for free, as we volunteers do on a daily basis, trying to help people just like you. then you may have an opinion on the compensation, or lack there of, for that matter, of the people dedicated to helping.
Rocco Mancini September 14, 2012 at 07:00 AM
Shaun, I am a taxpayer of Waterbury that pays Michael Farrell's Salary! I pay the high taxes in Waterbury! If a fireman does not like his job, quit! It is far from the most dangerous job! Why do Texas and Florida have lower taxes? No public employee unions! Time to move to a right to work state like Florida!
zippythepinhead September 14, 2012 at 09:36 AM
Don't worry Mike you'll be re hired , John Rowland was , maybe you can be a consultant , or even a radio talk show host , seriously give the money back , say sorry , and plead ignorance .
Anthony September 17, 2012 at 01:25 AM
We all have to work harder. Millions are waiting to exhaust their unemployment "benefits" and millions more are on bogus workers comp claims. Work harder, pay more taxes, they are all depending on you.
Rebecca September 17, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Mr. Farrell is a firefighter, like many other brave, courageous people, that have been called to help & save peoples lives, homes, animals, etc...(usually strangers). They're put in deadly/dangerous situations, ones they are trying to get us out of, so we can continue to live long enough to even have the option of writing comments on sites like this. Being a Ff. may not make a list of "the worlds top 10 most dangerous jobs", but their jobs are very dangerous, just speak to a survivor or a Ff. & get the details first hand. Ff. work hard for ALL people, some that appreciate & recognize their heroism & needed special skills & some that have a lack of respect, knowledge & appreciation for what they actually do most days. Mr. Farrell & other firefighters deserve better than being presumed guilty before knowing ALL the facts, deserve better than being called "another liberal union government worker who has the entitlement attitude"& is "overcompensated". How could anyone that doesn't know who they speak of, doesn't have ALL the facts & has likely never worked a day as a firefighter, never mind a 24+ year career( I am assuming that someone that would type those above quoted words, is or has never been a firefighter), type such harsh words? I believe we should be educated on ALL sides BEFORE speaking or typing & if someone thinks it's better in FL. then maybe they should move there. Or is that just too easy for me to say, because I don't have ALL the facts? Hmmm, I wonder?
loochie September 18, 2012 at 10:56 PM
25 plus years of service, he's a hero for God sake. I'm sure he'd gladly pay back the 600.sum odd dollars of only it was that easy. And he didn't respond to a fire during that time, he check ed on a neighbor who had a call in , geez! Seriously get some real criminals, stop wasting tax payers moneys!
Bobby B September 30, 2012 at 04:34 PM
He's not a hero. Just because someone spent their career doing something does not give them the privilege of that title. If someone spent 40 years working in a machine shop does that make them a hero? Of course not. Makes them a long time employee. Lets save that title for the people that deserve it.
Scott October 01, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Waterbury Fire Department and/or The City of Waterbury, CT appears to be on an unwarranted witch hunt and trying to make examples and set precidents however the problem is that they lack the fairness and equal progressive discipline in most of their recent cases and in gthe process are creating a great deformation of character to many of these Firefighters that have spent approx 20+ years of their life protecting and serving and in one quick rash decision they are destroying the lives and spirits of many people. Mike Farrell served 25 Years and was on Medical leave for circumstances that did not allow him proper ability to physically do the demanding job however in a second side job he was able to sit and or stand and teach a class and still try to serve the public in a manner he was still able to and we are going to punish him for this and he responded to a neighbors 911 call for a sick person and he also personally knew the person and responded as a friend and he is being punished for this as well. Basically you are saying that someone on medical leave should be on house arrest and they can not talk to their family or help his kids with homework or go check on his Mother if she calls a Ambulance for Chest Pain if he does arrest him and Fire him....Are you serious ? Another Firefighter with 20 years also and NO Previous discipline ever was fired unjustly it appears also. But another who abused all his sick time to get a Nursing degree was onl.y suspended for 30 Days,
Bob wheeler October 02, 2012 at 04:59 PM
He should be arrested and forced to pay back Waterbury what he can't perform his duties as a fireman in one town but has no problem collecting his money if he is disabled what is he doing responding to calls in Avon did any of you think what would happen if he got hurt or someone with him was hurt because he couldn't help them cause he is so called disabled fire him
Rebecca October 03, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Websters Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary... " HERO - One that shows great courage". A person that purposely risks their life on an almost daily basis, running into burning buildings to save other human beings, which includes any nay-sayers, sounds like a person with great courage. Many types of heroes in this world, but I am sure that most do and would agree that firefighters are heroes. It's not how long you have worked somewhere that makes you a hero, it's what you do when you are at work or not at work. It is the act. Come on "Bobby B & Bob wheeler" you and a few others here are really coming across uneducated. Open your eyes, ears and mind. It's a good thing to do that and not have tunnel vision. Try it, I am sure you can. Don't be haters, EDUCATE YOURSELF.
Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 08:21 PM
Hey Rebecca since your suppose to be so much smarter than all the rest of us why don't you explain what Farrell did and why it wasn't wrong if you need help you can use your websters dictionary
John Atwood October 03, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Jessie- The real story here is how the chief and the president have not followed their own rules. There are very specific written rules as to how, and for what someone can be disciplined. It is even specific to say you cannot suspend someone for more than 30 days. Mr. Farrell received a 90 day suspension. It would be appropriate in the effort of fairness: that an investigation was done into the circumstances behind mr. Farrells conduct. As part of that investigation, mr. Farrell should have had an opportunity to give his side if the story. It also would make sense that upon such investigation, the progressive discipline policy of the department would be followed. In the case of mr. Farrell NONE of those things were done. He was suspended without even bring notified that he was under investigation. His conduct would not have necessitated a suspension, and it is unfounded that a 90 day suspension would have been given since there is a specific claws stating that a 30 day suspension is all that can be enforced. It also states that when mr. Farrell asked to have this discipline reviewed he has the right to evoke the disciplinary review committee. This committee as it states in writing SHALL be appointed by the board. In the case of mr. Farrell, the president hand selected his review committee... Given the presidents willingness to talk to the press and give personal opinion about mr. Farrells conduct it calles into question the validity of this entire case.
Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 09:28 PM
Hey Rebecca I'm still waiting for the facts
Rebecca October 07, 2012 at 05:05 PM
They will come Rich... "patience is a virtue"... haven't you heard?
Bob Upson April 08, 2013 at 12:32 PM
"I will provide an update if more information becomes available. Jessie Sawyer Editor, Avon Patch" Please post an article to let everyone know that, as of last week, ALL CHARGES AGAINST MIKE FARRELL HAVE BEEN DROPPED. That way all the people who spoke against him without the benefit of the facts will have an opportunity to apologize to Mike and his family.


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