FBI Investigating Massachusetts Fire Department

The Martha’s Vineyard Times is reporting that FBI agents have been on the island recently investigating the Oak Bluffs Fire Department. According to a source named by the Times, the investigation is looking into Medicare and Medicaid billing issues. The Times is also reporting that subpoenas have been issued to fire department employees to appear before a grand jury in Boston on January 21 as part of the FBI investigation.

The article goes on to list a number of other legal proceedings that have enveloped the fire department, including:

  • allegations that the department failed to pay a former office administrator overtime she was entitled to
  • allegations related to withdrawing comp time from the same employee
  • allegations about sexual harassment and discrimination that are pending with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

The article tempers that news by explaining that the in June and September of last year the Board of Selectmen met with Fire Chief John Rose in executive session to address “the reputation, character, physical condition, or mental health rather than the professional competence of an individual, or discuss the discipline or dismissal of, or complaints or charges against, a public officer, employee, staff member, or individual” and to discuss “strategy with respect to litigation.”

The Times also quoted Finance and advisory committee chair William Vrooman as saying “I can’t believe the FBI would be here for this [Medicare and Medicaid] billing problem.”

Here is more on the story.

UPDATE: January 9, 2020: The Vinyard Gazette ran a story today stating a sexual harassment and discrimination suit between the former office administrator and the town has been settled for $97,500. More on that story.

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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