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Board Considers Expelling Farrell from Avon Volunteer Fire Department

On Tuesday, the Board of Directors postponed voting on expelling active veteran firefighter Michael Farrell but recommended that department members accept his retirement request.

There was debate at Tuesday's Avon Volunteer Fire Department Board of Director's meeting about which should come first – voting on ratifying the expulsion of veteran volunteer firefighter Michael Farrell, 48, or acting on his written request to be designated as retired.

The board voted to postpone a decision on ratifying his expulsion until the next meeting, but recommended that the department accept his retirement offer, sending it to the members to ultimately decide.

Farrell, who has been a regular member at the Avon department since 1983 and is chairman of the Avon Water Pollution Control Authority, is also employed full-time as a Waterbury fire captain. He is separately facing felony charges of workers' compensation fraud and larceny after Waterbury police learned he responded to some fire calls in Avon and taught Connecticut Fire Academy training classes while on paid injury leave from the Waterbury Fire Department, according to a court affidavit. Between March and July, before his Sept. 7 arrest, he collected about $19,558 in workers' compensation for his full-time Waterbury job. His next court date is Oct. 15.

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To date, Farrell has been suspended four times at the Avon department, including once when he was deputy fire chief in 1992. Department officials have said this is an anomaly and that this is not characteristic of the majority of their members.

"Every past/present Board of Directors and (the) past chiefs have been at this crossroads and been given a compromise by Michael Farrell, only to have that period of peace until the next outburst," board member and Avon Volunteer Fire Chief Michael Trick said in a prepared statement he read to the board Tuesday. "What assurances do we have that that won't be repeated?" Trick said.

A department review committee recently recommended expelling Farrell. That was after he was suspended twice in the last five years – in June 2012 after responding to calls while on medical leave in Avon and October 2008 for an inappropriate comment made to two female department members in 2006. He went on injury leave in Waterbury and medical leave in Avon on March 20 and, according to a court affidavit, was not supposed to be responding to fire calls due to a back injury.

According to Avon fire department policy, any member suspended twice in five years can be considered for expulsion.

Trick said that giving Farrell retirement status would entitle him to certain department privileges like access to its stations, social events and "other opportunities to sow the seeds of discontent and disruption."

He also said that Farrell previously offered to retire after a "prior legal action" and the department agreed to it, but that "he then withdrew his offer within 30 minutes of our agreed meeting time."

"I recommend we continue our course of expulsion and stand resolute that this behavior is not accepted," he said.

But the board voted by a majority to recommend accepting Farrell's letter asking the department to put him on retirement status. Fire department members will have the opportunity to vote on accepting his retirement.

"There's just two different things going on as I see it. The request to go to retirement status is in front of us," board member and former Avon Chief James DiPace said before the votes, "and then the requirement or procedure for expelling him has nothing to do with what this board says beside acknowledging the fact that the review committee did its job."

Trick said in his statement that he has concerns about the "safeguards" should Farrell reconsider his retirement status in the future.

"How will we be judged by those that come after us? By accepting this change of status, what is change?" he said.

DiPace told the board it was a tough call for him because he's known Farrell basically since he was born, so "it's personal." While they've had their differences over the years, there have been good times as well, he said.

"I disagree with the need to expel Michael. I've been a member of this fire department for 38 years and this is something I didn't think I'd ever come to ... expelling anybody, but especially needing to remove Michael Farrell from the membership," DiPace said.

"I know what he's put us through and everything that's going on in his life personally. He brought it on himself. From what I see and what I read, it's simply that. But I just can't see me personally voting to expel him," he said.

In an Aug. 7 board meeting, the day after the board sent him a letter ratifying Trick's decision to suspend him, Farrell complained that Trick violated a department discipline policy in the way he handled his June suspension, according to meeting minutes posted on the department's website.

He also requested an investigation "into actions presumed to have been committed by unknown members of the department with regards to Violence Free Workplace policy, AA-11," according to the minutes. Board President Ken Sedlak reported to the board at a Sept. 4 meeting that neither claim was credible, according to the minutes.

Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 09:49 PM
Rebecca what does that have to do with Farrell the world is full of corruption and ignorance but what Farrell did was wrong bottom line if he wasn't a friend of yours I'm sure you would see things like the rest of us.so unless you can present some facts that will prove his innocence sshhh!!!
Megan October 03, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Rebecca, You ask how many other Town agency leaders are ALLOWED this same latitude? Apparently you have not been following the issues within the Avon Police Department. Chief Mark Rinaldo has been allowed to get away with unethical decisions, favortism, discrimination, lying and abusing his authority for years. One question for you though, Did Mike Farrell go out on Workers Comp for an injury he sustained while partaking in his duties as a Waterbury Fire Fighter? Did Mike Farrell tell the City that he could not work in the office until he was fit for duty? Did Mike Farrell fail to give a return to light duty note from his physician to the City of Waterbury? Did Mike Farrell get paid almost $20k in workers comp and continue to teach at the fire academy and respond with the Avon Fire Dept?
John Atwood October 04, 2012 at 01:45 AM
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 04, 2012 at 01:51 AM
John are you his attorney
John Atwood October 04, 2012 at 02:37 AM
What mr. Farrell did is objective, and therefore subject to interpretation based on the facts of the incident. What the president and chief have done is not subjective. They have disregarded all of the written rules of the avfd. They have acted without concern for the fairness and equity of the organization as a whole. They have waged a personal attack on mr Farrell to suit their own insecurities. From an outsiders point of view, it's nothing short of bullying, and embarrassing for an otherwise good group of men and women. For shame Mr. Trick and Sedlak, your job is to lead, not ruin the lives of your unselfish volunteers. You need to reconsider what your goals are as leaders of a volunteer organization, and just who empowers you to lead. I'm sure the town managers are not impressed with your actions and choices. You have not given the avfd the positive reputation I'm sure it deserves. This isn't about mr Farrell. It's about your egos. Get over yourself. Follow your rules, come clean with your miss doings and get on with the mission of a well run fire department. The members of your organization deserve better than the excrement you have given them.
John Atwood October 04, 2012 at 03:06 AM
Hi Rich, No I am not mr farrells attorney. But I can relate to your frustration. However, I would ask you to consider a few things. Like we all learned in elementary school, don't believe everything you read in the news, chances are it's not completely truthful. The court system in this country, though it has it's flaws is one of the greatest in the world. Primarily, because we consider people innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. I understand the temptation to take your frustration out on mr Farrell for many reasons, but as a civilized society, we need to maintain the presumption of innocence until proven guilty as a basic right as a citizen of this great country. Just as we may be able to disagree on our opinions. I just ask, don't be quick to condem, and consider there may be more to this than you or I are witness to. Respectfully, John
John Atwood October 04, 2012 at 03:36 AM
I would like to amend the first sentence of my 10:37 post from "objective" to subjective. Sorry to all, my proofreading error.
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Thank you Mr Atwood. Finally someone who knows the constitution. And for the others I hope your glass houses don't have any holes because I am sure you have never defrauded the government on your taxes, I am sure you report any out of state purchaces in which you didn't pay ct sales tax on. Michael made a mistake by HELPING others. Oh darn. Where were you when town people needed help on your couch watching TV. Get over yourself noone is perfect.
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 02:10 PM
So Michelle are you saying your a lazy cheater who doesn't pay taxes and no I don't cheat on my taxes
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Really?? What is your beef with michael anyways? Don't you think there are worse problems in Avon? Look at the police dept.
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 02:17 PM
oh was threre a trial yet?
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Mr Atwood instead of dancing around the subject with alot of jargon use your dictionary you borrowed from Rebecca and debate the accuusations! why is that so hard ! what does the court and constitution have to do with fact he was caught defrauding workmens compensation
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 02:30 PM
He went to two calls he didn't have another job on the side. Really you have got major problems I believe there are alot more people that defraud workmens comp doing alot worse. Get a grip.
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Oh now what's wrong with the police dept come on stop deflecting what's wrong with you Michelle
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Oh so you admit he defrauded workmens comp thank you
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 03:10 PM
Sure there are alot worse cases but it doesn't make it right that's the point
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Is there just one personify there who can make a valid point on why it was ok without dancing around the subject I would love to hear it
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 03:45 PM
He may have or not we do not know all the facts yet. It has not been tried in a court of law so yes you may assume all you want but you have not heard both sides and when we do I would love to continue this banter but until then it is all assumptions. How can you say he is guilty if you only know what the paper has said? Have you spoken to Michael and asked his side? I am assuming you have not and you probably don't even know him personally? You probably don't know he is one of the best firefighters we have, he is the most knowledgable firefighters we have. Yes he has been known to be a hothead when he was younger but people do grow up. You seem to have a big problem with Michael not just with what he is ACCUSED of and not been found guilty of. I hope that you or anyone close to you nevers gets ACCUSED of a crime but then found guilty without ever having your side heard. those in glass houses should not throw stones and we all live in glass houses so don't say you have never done anything wrong because that is a lie. Put yourself in his shoes and his families. See how that feels to be persacuted without just cause. You do know people are accused of crimes all the time it does not mean they are guilty and we can't pick and choose who we think is guilty because of our own bias. Chew on that
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Trust me I'm far from innocent like most of us I've yet to hear one valid point on why he's not guilty from the facts presented and trying to be objective he's guilty no one has yet to shed light on that chew on that
Rich brown October 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Are you saying that while he was out on benefits he wasn't getting paid for performing duties some where else
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Rich I honestly don't know the stipulations of his wokmen's comp but I don't think he would teach at the fire academy if he felt he was violating his workman's comp deal. That would be like landscaping in front of the Waterbury firehouse. No one has released the stipulations of the workmen's comp. Was he not able to perform his job as a captian on the dept. but could sit at a desk and teach? I don't know the answers and that is my point we are only getting a small snapshot not the whole picture. We just do not have all the facts. Municipalities have there own workmen's comp deals everything is negotiated so we can't assume his workmen's comp is the same as anyone else.
Concerned Citizen October 04, 2012 at 08:47 PM
Curious, a few people on this post are either the individual or extremely close to Mr. Farrell, with the responses coming in. Maybe you can answer this, is a 30 day suspension for one offense or does it go up for more offenses? Which would make someone wonder. If it’s the later, isn’t the fire department trying to protect him? Nowhere in here have we heard he wasn’t given a chance to explain himself to the fire department. Reading between the lines, seems Mr. Farrell could have been the one that couldn’t close his mouth in which caused others to know what he was doing. I’ve kept replaying the videos and it seems his behavior has been in question for awhile, and that Chief Dipace knew a lot more, but due to his friendship wanted to protect him. So again, isn’t the fire department being the honorable ones?
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 09:00 PM
He was teaching at the Fire Academy. Do you really think he is that dumb?
Rebecca October 05, 2012 at 12:37 PM
John Atwood...well said.
Rich brown October 05, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Lecturing at the academy might have been ok if he wasn't performing physical duties also .the question asked when, what time while he should have been working for the town of Waterbury how much he was paid while out on benefits etc those are the issues ,responding to calls while out ,the list goes on ! your right he made a mistake and I think he knew it but only after he got caughtthat's my point!I'
Rich brown October 05, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Thank you Michelle someone finally made some goods points on his behalf instead of dancing around the subject and putting blame on others like Rebecca and her brother John Atwood that's all I've asked for more of his side not a bunch of bull
Tyler October 05, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I just can't believe how many people have an opinion on something that is still undecided. What happened to innocent until proven guilty? At what point did everyone start to forget that? This is simply absurd that so many people have something to say in what is truly the "Court of public Opinion." I'm not defending or attacking anyone. just disgusted at how we let ourselves get carried away. Farrell is neither innocent or guilty yet. I guess I didn't know how many lawyers lived among us.
Rich brown October 05, 2012 at 07:17 PM
It's called freedom of speech Tyler
Thomas October 06, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Well spoken Tyler. Mr. Brown has the freedom of speech and the ability to harass mixed up!
Rebecca October 07, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Rich(if that is your name), you appear to not be connected to this case and I am. If that is true, that means you might just be a bored, online bully. Why don't you tell us all something that is actually happening to you and your life, so everyone can all comment on it and tell you what the facts are, how you should handle it and how everyone else, knows more about it than you do. Then everyone can tell you what a horrible person you are and they can purposely attempt to make you feel like crap and judge you before they know your "story". It's a good thing to focus on the positive Rich, not the negative. Maybe you could start doing that, maybe you could try kindness rather than judgement. I would not wish this situation on anyone, not even you Rich. I feel sad for you, I really do.

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