NY Fire District Sued By Applicant

An applicant for membership in the Mezeppa Fire Engine Co. #2 and the Nyack Fire Department has filed suit against the Nyack Joint Fire District Board of Commissioners alleging they are illegally blocking his joining the fire companies. Robert Kolessar, Jr. filed suit last week in the Supreme Court for Rockland County.

Kolessar claims he was duly voted in as a member of both organizations, the Mezeppa Fire Engine Co. #2 and the Nyack Fire Department. He alleges the failure of the Board to “approve or disapprove” of his membership within a statutory 70 day period resulted in his application being deemed approved under state law.

According to the complaint, the Board took up his application last year within the 70-day window, but a motion to approve his application did not receive a second. The Board considered the lack of a second to the motion to be a rejection of his application. Kolessar claims that according to Robert’s Rules, the lack of a second merely means the motion dies. It does not constitute a formal vote to deny the motion. As a result the Board failed to either accept or reject Kolessar’s application, and once the 70-day window closed his application was considered to be approved.

The suit alleges Kolessar was threatened with arrest if he began serving as a firefighter. The suit was filed and names the Nyack Join Fire District Board of Commissioners along with Chairman James B. Hartwick, Vice Chairman Ted Ryder, Commissioner Robert Booth, Commissioner John Phillips, and Commissioner Jennifer Knecht. Kolessar is asking the court for an order finding that he is a member of both organization, and give him retroactive credit for the time he was prevented from actively serving.

Here is a copy of the complaint:

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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