Michael Farrell, 48, expelled from the department last October, submitted a complaint to the Town Council against the department on Aug. 29. In it, he asked the council for help in getting him reinstated as a department member and called for the town to investigate his claims of "discrimination," "bias," and "unfair practice(s)" by department leadership in the disciplinary process that led to his expulsion.
The Hartford Courant reported that Farrell previously said he also wanted the department to clear up his disciplinary records.
But Avon Town Manager Brandon Robertson confirmed that the Town of Avon and Town Council will not be getting involved.
He wrote in an email to Patch that "the Avon Volunteer Fire Department is an independent corporation." Robertson said Monday in a phone interview that the matter is a personnel issue that falls under the purview of the department's Board of Directors.
"It is the responsibility of the Department to review the complaint and take appropriate action, if necessary," Robertson wrote in an email.
The Avon Volunteer Fire Department has declined to comment on the complaint because the department does not discuss personnel matters.
Farrell said he was not present for the executive session discussion on his complaint. The item does not require a Town Council vote of action in regular session, according to Robertson.
“They’re essentially saying that they did not opine on the validity of my claims," Farrell said, and the town informed him it wouldn't be appropriate for the council or town to act on his complaint.
In response, Farrell said, “I think that they did what they felt they needed to do" to protect the best interests of Avon. He said he wasn't surprised.
“However, going forward, I’m going to have to take it to a more formal venue and I don’t think it’s going to bode well for the town of Avon or the Avon Volunteer Fire Department," Farrell said.
He called for "some level of accountability" from the town, which provides funding to the fire department, and said that the question of town jurisdiction in fire department matters is "a very convenient gray area for them."
“I think when you provide an arm of local government with $1.5 million of taxpayers' money and on top of that provide free legal
service … tens of thousands of dollars of billable hours against the retainer,
against money the taxpayers fund, I think it’s rather disingenuous and indicative of
a double standard," Farrell said. "It brings to mind the old adage, 'If you’re in for a dime,
you’re in for a dollar.'”
Farrell did not elaborate on the form of further action he plans to take.
Robertson said this is the second complaint of this nature against the fire department that the town has received this year and that the town's response was the same to the other firefighter's complaint.
Farrell is newly employed as a firefighter at a department in Southern Coastal Maine. He also currently serves as chairman of the Avon Water Pollution Control Authority.