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Farrell Had History of Suspensions at Avon Department Long Before Waterbury Arrest

Avon resident Michael Farrell, who is also an active veteran volunteer firefighter in Avon, faces felony charges of workers' compensation fraud and larceny as Waterbury fire captain.

Waterbury Fire Capt. Michael Farrell had a history of suspensions and reported misconduct as a member of his hometown volunteer fire department in Avon even before he was arrested on felony charges of workers' compensation fraud and larceny after Waterbury police arrested him Sept. 7

Farrell, 48, was suspended in June from the Avon Volunteer Fire Department (AVFD) while on medical leave at AVFD and on paid injury leave from his full-time Waterbury job.

The criminal investigation was launched after an anonymous letter was sent to city of Waterbury officials. The letter stated that Farrell responded to volunteer calls in Avon while on paid injury leave in Waterbury.

The charges call into question Farrell's volunteer firefighting and Connecticut Fire Academy teaching activity while collecting about $19,558 in workers' compensation for injury leave in Waterbury, according to the court affidavit. His next court date at Waterbury Superior Court is Oct. 15 to enter his plea.

Before Farrell's June suspension as a volunteer firefighter in Avon, he was suspended three other times at AVFD.

“That’s not common in the Avon Volunteer Fire Department for a member to have multiple suspensions," Kenneth Sedlak, president of the Avon Volunteer Fire Department board of directors, said. “I just want to say that this doesn’t reflect the Avon Volundeer Fire Department as a whole. As a group, as a large majority, the men and women who volunteer do a fantastic job."

As per the department's administrative operating guidelines, Sedlak said that any AVFD member who has had two suspensions within a five-year period can be removed from the department, subject to board ratification. Farrell was suspended another time in 2008, so he could fall into that category, but Sedlak declined to comment on whether that will be the case.

"This isn’t normal for our volunteers," Sedlak said. "They show up, do their jobs and do a wonderful job and this isn’t reflective of the majority of our members.”

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SUSPENSIONS AND INCIDENTS OF REPRIMAND

June 2012

Most recently, Avon Volunteer Fire Chief Michael Trick suspended Farrell for 60 days for responding to a June 6 call on Helena Road in Avon while on medical leave in Avon, according to a June 18 letter Trick sent him.

After sustaining a back injury at his place of employment in Waterbury, he was put on injury leave in Waterbury and medical leave in Avon on March 20. The Avon suspension was upheld after an internal investigation, according to another letter dated Aug. 6.

"You claimed that you responded to the call as a 'Good Samaritan' because you knew the family," stated the letter, provided to Patch with redacted signatures through a Freedom of Information request. "At no time that day did you indicate that you were reporting in a limited capacity. Rather, you took it upon yourself to investigate the matter and then called the Dispatch, provided your badge number upon request, and recommended that there was no need for the Department to respond."

Additionally, Farrell responded to a June 1 transformer explosion at the intersection of Sunset Trail and Hillcrest Drive in Avon that knocked the power out, according to department attendance records.

2011 Letter of Reprimand

Farrell responded to a structure fire on Camden Way on Dec. 10, 2011 without wearing personal protective equipment, according to a letter of reprimand Trick sent him on Dec. 20, 2011.

"I cannot condone this type of activity no matter what conditions or situations are transpiring," Trick wrote in the letter. "You not only endangered yourself by not being properly protected, but you endangered those around you. If a rescue of a fellow firefighter was needed, you would have been ineffective."

Trick said in the letter to Farrell that he had asked him twice to leave the fire scene.

2008 Suspension

In October 2008, Farrell was suspended for three months as an Avon volunteer firefighter in Company 1 after making an inappropriate comment to two women on March 6, 2006, according to documentation in a Commission on Human Rights and Opportunity (CHRO) complaint Farrell filed against the department in February 2011.

In his CHRO complaint, he claimed that he was discriminated against as a male when he was denied the promotions. The commission dismissed his complaint in May 2012 and he did not appeal.

The suspension made Farrell ineligible for promotions he applied for in November 2008 and 2009, February 2009 and August 2010. According to department policies, any department member suspended "within the last three years" is ineligible for promotions.

He was also put under probation for three months after his suspension concluded and ordered to take "sexual harassment training," according to an Oct. 8, 2008 letter from the fire department's Board of Directors.

Farrell was replaced on the board after his suspension.

1998 Suspension

Farrell was suspended for one month Sept. 8, 1998 after "removing fire department property without obtaining permission."

"As you know, the coffee table should have been borrowed through your aptain as outlined in the Administrative Operating Guidelines, DP-2," a letter from then board president Chris Roy to Farrell stated. "We regret that it was necessary to take any action."

1992 Suspension

Farrell's first suspension began on Sept. 17, 1992, according to records provided to Patch through an FOI request. The suspension lasted 30 days.

He was ranked as second deputy chief at that time.

James G. Keith, then board president, cited the reason as "gross insubordination and conduct unbecoming an officer of the Avon Volunteer Fire Department."

A LONGTIME VOLUNTEER IN AVON

Farrell is a longtime volunteer in the Avon community. 

He joined the fire department as a cadet in 1979, he became a regular member in 1983. He served as second lieutenant from 1985 to 1987, first lieutenant in 1990, second deputy chief from 1991 to 1994 and first deputy chief in 1995. He resigned as deputy chief later that year. In 2003, he was designated as an active veteran.

In addition to his work as a firefighter, he has been Avon Water Polution Control Authority representative since 2003 and chairman since 2010.

He is not paid for volunteering in Avon, but he did receive $5,455-worth of tax abatements from the town of Avon between 2002 and 2007 as part of a state program offered to volunteer firefighters who have served for a certain number of years, according to records provided to Patch by the Human Resources Department through an FOI request.

Paul Blawie October 02, 2012 at 02:54 PM
OK, so we've got an anonymous letter, probably penned by one of the parochial functionaries who saw fit to suspend Mr. Farrell for such egregious offenses as responding to potentially hazardous events in his own neighborhood and borrowing a card table. As to what really happened behind such loaded words as "gross insubordination" and "inappropriate comment(s)," we would do well to bear in mind that such ominous-sounding phrases are frequently tossed about by petty dictators with their own axes to grind. Perhaps professional jealousy and small-town cronyism are more to be exposed here than any alleged misbehavior on the part of Mr. Farrell? Whatever the circumstances, it is most important to remember that a judge will decide the outcome, not a newspaper, not you or me, nor a group of volunteers who can sometimes allow their own flashing blue lights to blind them to any citizen's presumption of innocence.
John Berggin October 02, 2012 at 03:21 PM
It is not normal for a fire department to throw a member under the bus, and rat him out to the municipality he works for. These recent suspensions sound like paranoia by a hierarchy threatened by a more knowledgable and experienced firefighter. The 2008 suspension took two and a half years to come about??? If it truly was sexual harrassment, that issue should have been taken care of right away as a priority, sexual harrassment shouldn't be taken lightly and should be dealt with immediately, not 2 and a half years later. Sounds fishy to me. I'm also angered that Patch would write such an article to degrade someone who has volunteered so much of their time to help the citizens of Avon. I don't ever see articles like this for rapists, murderers, bank robbers or true criminals.
Bob wheeler October 02, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Hey Paul I no you want to stick up for your friend but he's a crooked lieing fraud he should be arrested and not soon enough
Joey October 02, 2012 at 08:10 PM
A suspension from 20 and another from 14 years ago; how relevant is this to his issues with Waterbury Fire Department? And why was it over 2 years before the so called 'sexual harassment' was discovered? If a complaint was ever filed by the two female members then the AVFD Inc is at fault for not acting on it or for covering it up. Or was it something 'conveniently found' to keep Mr. Ferrell from a Chief slot? This whole thing reeks of vendetta and animosity. Why then would the Chief reprimand Ferrell for not having protective clothing at a fire he wasn't going into but give an award to a Lieutenant for trying to save a man and his dog who fell in a pond, without any protective clothing, gear or back up? O'Neil should have been lauded as a citizen but reprimanded as a firefighter, who should have known better to wait for assistance. At who's bidding was FOI invoked so that ancient suspensions could be exhumed? Since Sedlak seems to have so much to say in this matter it strikes me as though it could be personal, why? I'll bet anyone else would have a hard time getting into personnel records without the help of Sedlak. This is a most absurd and amateurish hatchet job and I hope those responsible are found out and appropriately punished. Perhaps the Town of Avon should consider doing away with the Volunteer Fire department and just hire and pay competent leaders and firefighters. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
Joey October 02, 2012 at 08:57 PM
A closer look at the AVFD Inc. Members get $5, ostensibly (and disingenuously) called 'mileage reimbursement.' Which means that a firefighter who responds to a call earns $5 for 'gas'. This is allowable by the IRS and is tax free. But often firefighters who respond on an engine to one call will earn another $5 if they are dispatched for a second, which violates the IRS mileage reimbursement. When members are requested to 'standby' at their firehouse, they should only be getting $5 to drive to and later back home. But instead the 'rule' is (and has always been) broken to allow each member to get $5 for EVERY call, even if they are already at the fire house. For example, if a member stood by their fire house and responded to 39 calls during a late October snowstorm, they would have earned $195, instead of the allowable $5. While I believe that firefighters should be compensated, the mileage reimbursement is supposed to be just that, if it's something else, like Paid On Call then call it that. Maybe because mileage reimbursement is tax free and Paid On Call is taxable income. This seems like fraud and the Board of Directors allow it to happen. Is everyone now guilty of tax fraud or evasion? Or were they all misled by the BoD who incompetently (and illegally) allow Paid On Call wages to be issued as mileage reimbursement? Perhaps President Sedlak can shed some light on this because otherwise, it seems to be illegal but then, a lawyer would know best.
Bob wheeler October 02, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Joey what the hell does getting 5 dollars have to do with the charges against Farrell stick to the issues at hand and stop deflecting face fact he is guilty as written
Bob wheeler October 02, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Another thing Joey if you don't like the way the fire dept is run then stop volunteering and bad mouthing your fellow firefighters
Jessie Sawyer (Editor) October 02, 2012 at 10:16 PM
To clarify, the records cited in the story were all obtained through Freedom of Information requests I sent to Avon Volunteer Fire Department and the town. Town and fire department officials processed my requests and provided me with the public records I asked for that fall under the Freedom of Information Act. Ken Sedlak is quoted in the story because I called him to give the fire department an opportunity to comment. Jessie Sawyer Editor, Avon Patch
Thomas October 02, 2012 at 11:48 PM
Easy Bob! I don't know you, but you should shut your trap before someone does it for you!
Joey October 02, 2012 at 11:53 PM
Bob wheeler You've already found Ferrell guilty, even without a trial, so much for due process. As for the $5, if you read (or have someone help you read) what I wrote, there is a good chance that the $5 for each call is a violation of IRS tax code. If so then the AVFD Inc is at fault as is the president of AVFD Inc. It's really not that hard to understand, turn down fox news, maybe you can concentrate better (or gooder if it will help you understand). Also not bad mouthing firefighters (really, you do have some comprehension issues).
John Berggin October 03, 2012 at 04:36 AM
I hardly find responding to 2 calls, one involving a close family friend, fraud. What did he actually take from the city of Waterbury? The Town of Avon should look into the current hierarchy of the department, normal fire departments are not run like this. I have a feeling that the Town will be forced into a corner when there is a lawsuit on their hands for defamation from these events in 2012.
The Real Trick-ster October 03, 2012 at 07:15 AM
Bob, Bob, Bob, Bob, Bobert, Bobert, Bobert, Bobert, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, Bobby,...Hiiiiii!
Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 01:58 PM
He is giving the good firemen of Avon a bad reputation he should come clean and go to jail that fraud .you got caught its time to pay the piper
Rebecca October 03, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Joey- I love you! You are clearly smart and educated. Just what Avon needs! Go Joey, Go Joey! Rich Brown you are clearly not smart and uneducated. Get the facts... All the facts
Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 07:54 PM
I see Joey and Rebecca are friends what is this schoolyard antics I don't need to be smart to see a crook
Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Rebecca please present us with the facts we all love to hear them
Rich brown October 03, 2012 at 09:26 PM
Oh that's right we already have them
The Real Trick-ster October 04, 2012 at 06:47 PM
So, I'm glad to see this Avon Patch is supporting a one sided argument! I left a comment on here a couple days ago, more specifically, the morning of Oct. 3rd. Where is it now? What happened to 1st Amendment Rights? I smell a cover up here!!!
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Avon never changes lol
Michele Le May October 04, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Avon does not deal with reality. Just call it the Truman show
Rich brown October 05, 2012 at 02:55 PM
How about the Rebecca and Atwood show there completely one sided without reality
roger anstey October 06, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Mr. Brown, If you believe everything that you read in a newspaper or on the internet,than you are a total fool. Perhaps we should allow this story to run it's course in court before we condemn both Mr. Farrell and the department. There are many unanswered questions regarding both Mr. Farrell's work status and the actions of the Avon fire dept. One would assume some or all of them will be answered during trial. With regard to the department perhaps all of you out There typing your negative comments should get up off your test ends and join the department. t there typing away with your nrgativecomments
ROGER ANSTEY October 06, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I apologize for the typo's in my comment above. The word test should be rear, and the partial sentence at the end should be deleted. I was using my phone to type this comment and could not get the cursor in the correct spot to correct the typo's.
Adam October 07, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Boy, the politics on display here sure makes me want to volunteer!
Jeff October 08, 2012 at 12:49 AM
We have known Mr. Farrell for over 20 years, and we'd like to share some insights into his character. Michael is a true humanitarian, who has always been there for his friends, family and residents of Avon. We've seen Michael help others during fire calls and give medical attention to those in need during public events when others of similar training stood and watched. He has helped his neighbors when tragic and severe events have occurred, and is on the top of all of our lists if we ever needed help, even if we hadn't seen him for years. Michael Farrell has spent his life helping others, while working long hours to support his family. Even with an injury, Michael's innate sense to help others would never allow him to stand by if he heard a call on the scanner, even if he couldn't physically contribute. Knowing Michael as we do, we know that his response to help others for the Avon Volunteer Fire Department had nothing to do with the extremely minimal monetary amount he would receive from the call, and everything to do with his passion as a community service person. The world needs more unselfish, lifetime Samaritans like Mr. Farrell. - Jeff & Linda Stein, Mark & Carmela Campbell, Jeff & Robin Pikor, Pete & Sara Scott -
Thomas October 08, 2012 at 11:13 AM
Well said! The McCarthy Family could not agree more! Thomas, Kathie, Conor & Hunter.
None of your October 09, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Did you give Farrell an opportunity to comment?
Rich brown October 09, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Roger I never condemned mr Farrell I was simply pointing out what right does he blame others for his troubles he brought to himself if the dept was run so badly for so long as commented how come nothing was ever said until all this came out makes you wonder
Thomas October 09, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Rich, it seems your one of those guys who needs to get the last word in! You had your say, now it's time for you to...... "SHUT UP"!!!

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