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New Jersey Chief Removed and Reappointed

Today’s burning question: I am the chief of a volunteer fire company. The local council is not happy with me… it's a long and ugly story going back years. They just can’t seem to understand that they are part of government and the fire company is not. In other words – they don’t control us. Well, they are trying to take control of the department anyway. They enacted an ordinance giving themselves the authority to appoint, reprimand, suspend or remove firefighters. Not surprisingly the ordinance specifically includes the power to remove the fire chief!!!

The troops were not happy, so the fire company filed suit to challenge the ordinance. Unfortunately the judge said the council has the authority to enact the law. The council wasted no time in terminating me.

Here’s my question: Do you see any reason why the fire company could not reappoint me back on the fire department, and then reappoint me back as fire chief? Nothing in the council’s new ordinance says their power to appoint, reprimand, suspend or remove firefighters is exclusive, and nothing in the court’s decision said those powers were taken away from the fire company?

Answer: I suppose if the ordinance did not remove the authority of the fire company to appoint members and the fire chief… you may be on solid ground… at least for now until the council revisits the language…

 

Bill Mason is once again the fire chief of the Newfield Volunteer Fire Company, and the power struggle between the Newfield Borough Council and the NVFC continues in New Jersey.

Recall earlier this month, the fire company sued the borough seeking to challenge the council’s ordinance giving itself greater control over the fire company, including the right to appoint, reprimand, suspend or remove firefighters, officers, and the fire chief. On August 16, 2013 New Jersey Superior Court Judge Georgia Curio upheld the ordinance.  The council wasted no time, voting on Monday, August 19, 2013 to remove Chief Mason.

In a move worthy of a chess master, NVFC President Kenneth Barbagli announced immediately following the council meeting that he was re-appointing Mason to the department, and promoting him to fire chief.

Council President Michael Carrow reports that the council is mulling over their next move which could come as early as Monday August 26, 2013.

More on the story.

Comments - Add Yours

  • Dalmatian90

    'tis an interesting situation.

    The other fire company in my town sat in a similar ambigous area and they only formally incorporated about a decade, 15 years ago partly to avoid a potential situation like this of district trying to "take-over," but mutually to help protect the district from the actions of the company.

    Their fire district appoints the Chief, but the membership elects itself and the other officers and otherwise acted with broad discretion apart from the district.

    The district itself is an anachronism — it is confined to the pre-1969 boundaries when the Town took over the primary funding of operations and capital and as part of deal expanded their response area to cover four or five times the size of the district.  The district-owned fire station…isn't within the district.