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Waterbury Fire Captain Was Suspended in Avon Before Police Investigation Began

The following information about Avon resident Michael Farrell's Friday arrest comes from an affidavit available in Waterbury Superior Court and does not indicate a conviction.

Waterbury Fire Capt. Michael J. Farrell , according to an affidavit available to the public in Waterbury Superior Court.

Between March 20 and July 30, Farrell collected $19,558 in workers' compensation through Berkley Risk Administrators, according to the affidavit.

Waterbury police charged Farrell, 48, with first-degree larceny and workers' compensation fraud in the amount of more than $2,000 Friday, both felonies, according to the state judicial website.

But prior to that, the suspended Farrell from his volunteer firefighter duties. Through a separate internal investigation initiated by Avon Fire Chief Michael Trick, Avon fire officials determined that Farrell violated "a directive not to respond to calls for service while he was on medical leave from the Waterbury Fire Department," according to the affidavit. While Farrell appealed the suspension, the decision was upheld.

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Farrell first filed injury reports in Waterbury after hurting his back and leg March 16 "while conducting training," according to the affidavit. After going to St. Mary's Occupational Health for treatment on March 20, the doctor "kept Mr. Farrell out of work completely with no light duty," effective March 28, according to the affidavit.

At a follow-up appointment July 18, the doctor gave him a "work status certificate" allowing him to "return to work in a light duty capacity" July 30. However, Leslie Dorsey, a workers' comp claim examiner for Berkley Risk Administrators, did not have record of Farrell being placed on light duty, according to the affidavit.

Avon fire officials put Farrell on medical leave "because of his medical issues as a result of his work-related incident in Waterbury," according to Waterbury Police Lt. Michael Slavin's July 20 interview with Trick. Ken Sedlak, president of the Avon Volunteer Fire Department Board of Directors, previously said that Farrell's leave from Avon began in the spring.

"Trick felt that if Farrell can't perform his duties in the Waterbury Fire Department then he is a liability in Avon, as well," Slavin said in the affidavit.

Slavin began investigating Farrell July 20 after an anonymous letter sent to Waterbury Chief of Staff Joseph Geary notified him that Farrell responded to volunteer firefighter calls in Avon while on disability leave from his duties as Waterbury fire captain, according to the affidavit. The letter also informed Geary that he could find "public record documentation" of Farrell's attendance record and "voice audio tapes of Mr. Farrell's participation" from the Avon fire and police departments.

Farrell's name is on the attendance sheet June 1 listing volunteer firefighters that responded to an afternoon transformer explosion in Avon at the intersection of Sunset Trail and Hillcrest Drive that knocked out the power, according to department records given to Slavin after he obtained a search and seizure warrant on July 24.

June 6 recordings of communication with Avon police and fire dispatch place Farrell at a fire alarm call on Helena Road, the affidavit states. Farrell said his name and fire identification number to the dispatcher on the call. He reported to the dispatcher that "the situation was under control and it was an alarm malfunction," according to the affidavit. He then recommended canceling the call because "he did not have his radio and they could contact him by phone." His name was not on the attendance sheet for that call, Slavin stated in the affidavit.

Doctors also barred Farrell from teaching fire training classes because of his injuries, according to the affidavit. Dorsey told Slavin no one at Berkley gave him permission through his workers' comp agreement to "instruct classes" either, because if he could teach training classes, then he would have been put on light duty in Waterbury, the affidavit said.

Farrell, who is a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor, led training classes at the Avon Volunteer Fire Department on March 31, the Sandy Hook Fire Department on May 6, the West Hartford Fire Department on May 15 and 17, according to the affidavit. The fire academy paid him $18 an hour for nine hours of training on each of those days.

Farrell's attorney, Francis Grady also told Slavin that his client confirmed teaching a four-hour class for the Wolcott Fire School on May 17. He earned $100 for the class.

Grady sent the city of Waterbury a check on Farrell's behalf "to reimburse the city for monies earned while he was on workmen's [sic] compensation," but the city did not accept the money, according to the affidavit.

Farrell has not entered a plea yet and is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 15.

He was not available when Avon Patch called his home phone number, but a message was left with the person who answered the phone. Messages left on Grady's office voicemail have not been returned yet either.

More details will be provided as they become available.

Case Timeline

Date Case Details March 16 Waterbury Fire Capt. Michael Farrell is injured while conducting training. March 20 His injuries are examined at St. Mary's Occupational Health; the doctor advises him not to work in any capacity; he goes on workers' comp. March 28 The doctor's order not to work is in effect starting on this date. His injury leave as Waterbury fire captain begins. Avon Volunteer Fire Department also places him on medical leave on an unconfirmed date in last spring. March 31 Farrell teaches a training class in Avon as a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor. May 6 Farrell teaches a training class at Sandy Hook Fire Department as a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor.
May 15 Farrell teaches a training class at West Hartford Fire Department as a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor.  May 17 Farrell teaches a training class at West Hartford Fire Department as a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor. Later that day, he teaches at Wolcott Fire School.
June 1 Farrell responds to a tranformer explosion call as a member of the Avon Volunteer Fire Department at the intersection of Sunset Trail and Hillcrest Drive. This is the incident date listed on the state judicial website in connection to the Waterbury charges.
June 6 Farrell's voice is audible on recordings of communications with Avon fire and police dispatchers for a fire alarm call on Helena Road. His name and fire identification number are also mentioned. July 18 Farrell's doctor approves him for light duty at a follow-up appointment, but a Berkley Risk Administrators representative said he was not shifted to light duty.
July 20 Waterbury Police Lt. Michael Slavin begins investigation into Farrell's activities while on injury leave in Waterbury. Waterbury's chief administrative officer tells Slavin about the anonymous letter tipping Waterbury town officials off about the situation. Slavin talks to Avon Fire Chief Michael Trick the same day. July 23 Slavin receives an email from Trick about the dispatch transmissions for the June 6 call at Helena Road. July 24 Slavin applies for and is granted search and seizure warrant for Avon Volunteer Fire Department attendance records. Aug. 3 Slavin receives confirmation from the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection that Farrell taught classes as a Connecticut Fire Academy instructor in Avon, Sandy Hook and West Hartford between March and May. Aug. 17 Francis Grady, Farrell's attorney, faxes Slavin to tell him that Farrell also taught a class at the Wolcott Fire School. He also says he sent a check on Farrell's behalf to the city of Waterbury as reimbursement for what he earned while on injury leave. This money was not accepted. Sept. 7 Waterbury police arrest Farrel on first-degree larceny and workers' comp fraud charges. He appears in Waterbury Superior Court Oct. 15 Farrell's next court date.

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.

John Atwood October 05, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Rich- Your posts seem to be very hostile and aggravated. Is this a personal issue for you? You seem to want to condem this man before you know all the facts. Do you know all the facts? Because the paper does not know all the facts. I don't know all of them, and frankly the actions of this chief and president seem to be overtly retaliatory, almost a poignant attack. I don't like wasting government dollars as much as anyone. But this seems fishy to me. Let the court sort it out and let the guilty party be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.
Rich brown October 05, 2012 at 02:52 PM
I'm not hostile but I am aggravated over the fact most everyone on here who made comments wrote about corruption among others instead of making an argument on why Farrell wasn't guilty. You especially wrote a whole letter about the constitution and due process and pointing fingers at others but you brought not one valid point on his behalf . I was wrong to think of you as his lawyer because he would be convicted by your representation alone .note to you sir in the future when making comments about stories on here stick to the issues !!
John Atwood October 07, 2012 at 02:45 AM
In fact rich, if I was his lawyer, I would be doing my job by not discussing the facts of the case before the trial thereby tainting any hope of a fair process. Mr. Sedlack should have known better and followed this advice and not made comment either. He has put the town and the department in a very dangerous spot by willingly giving his personal opinions on such a matter. As such, I am not privy to any details that would shed insight to this case. I do know however, that we do not have all the facts from one article. As such, I will not make comment on such issues. Let the truth be told in a court of law.
Rebecca October 07, 2012 at 05:32 PM
You speak the truth John Atwood, thank you.
Bob Upson April 08, 2013 at 12:34 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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