Maine Chief Remains in Office Despite Admitting to Theft

A fire chief who has been charged with stealing from a fire department account will be keeping his position for the time being. George Russell, the fire chief in Thorndike, has been charged with stealing $5,100 from the Thorndike firemen’s account.

Chief Russell, 27, was charged on May 21, 2015 with theft by deception by Maine State Police. According to the Free Press, Thorndike Selectman Jim Bennett met with Chief Russell about the charges, where he admitted to the theft and agreed to repay the money.

The funds were reportedly taken from a “firemen’s account” that is separate from the town and funded by the membership through fund-raising.

According to the Free Press, this is not the first time Chief Russell has been accused of stealing from a fire department. He reportedly has two theft convictions dating back to 2007, one for taking a radio from the Frankfort Fire Department and another related to forging checks. Chief Russell reportedly returned the radio, made restitution for the forged checks, and served a combined total of nine days in jail.

According to Selectman Bennett, “I asked him if he would step aside as fire chief until the matter was settled. I thought it would be better for everybody if he did. He said no.” Bennett said the fire department voted to keep him despite the theft charges.

More on the story from the Free Press, which goes on to discuss the connection of the case to the shortage of volunteer firefighters.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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