Chief Officer Accused of Trying to Influence Subordinate’s Testimony

.A chief officer from Hartford, Connecticut, who has been in the public spotlight on a number of accounts, is now being accused of trying a influence a subordinate’s testimony in a disciplinary proceeding.

Deputy Chief Terry Waller is accused of suggesting to Fire Captain Luis Ocasio that he be less than candid in his testimony in a hearing for a firefighter accused of being intoxicated while on duty, and implying that telling the truth could hurt the captain’s future chances for promotion

According to a written complaint that Captain Ocasio filed with the city’s Human Resources Department, Chief Waller, who was then serving as Interim Assistant Chief, called him the day before his scheduled testimony and told him:

  • “exposing all this puts a black eye on us as firemen”,
  • “it puts us in a bad light, people are looking at us and it reflects poorly having this out there”.
  • “you don’t not have to go up there and blow things up or sensationalize things”
  • “We take care of take care of the weak our own” “the strong take care of the weak”.

Captain Ocasio then said:

Chief Waller then remarked about me being a smart guy, having a valuable and desirable skill set and that my future in the Hartford Fire Department was promising. Chief Waller then made a remark that I took to be threatening, Chief Waller stated that I would not want that career promise to be jeopardized by my testimony at this hearing. I took this to mean retaliation for speaking out, I took this to mean that somehow my possibility of promotion or advancement would be jeopardized by going before the DPH and giving full and truthful testimony.

Last week Chief Waller was returned back to a line deputy’s position. He reportedly remains in contention for the Assistant Chief’s position that he was serving in on an interim basis. When the position was initially announced, city residency was a new requirement and Chief Waller was the only eligible deputy chief who was a city resident. Several deputy chiefs complained about the new requirement and the selection process remains ongoing.

Chief Waller was the senior ranking officer on the scene of a LODD structure fire that claimed the life of FF Kevin Bell on October 7, 2014. Chief Waller did not assume command from the shift Deputy Chief. The blog We The People suggests that Chief Waller was instrumental in having the same Deputy Chief temporarily relieved of duty in December over vague and unsubstantiated concerns. That Deputy Chief has since been reinstated after a full fitness for duty evaluation.

I quote from We The People: “That could potentially be to avoid putting responsibility on Waller, but rather shift the responsibility for decision making [at the LODD fire] to” the deputy chief. The blog goes on to suggest Chief Waller’s relationship with the city attorney was creating a conflict of interest. She announced her retirement shortly thereafter.

Here is a copy of Captain Ocasio’s complaint: Capt Ocasio Complaint

More on the 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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