Massachusetts Suit Claims Errors Invalidate Fire District Election

A former deputy fire chief is suing a Massachusetts fire district seeking to invalidate an election and remove the district’s chairman.

Philip W. Dalessio is suing the Three Rivers Fire District and its governing board, known as the Prudential Committee. He is seeking a court order invalidating the election of Chairman Ray Domey last May due to improprieties in conducting the election.

The complaint was filed in Hampden County Superior Court last month. It claims that the fire district’s elections cannot legally be governed by state election laws, including a provision requiring an official ballot and the use of absentee ballots. It goes on to list numerous inconsistencies between state election laws and fire district election procedures, before stating:

  • Absentee ballots are not permitted under Chapter 325 of the Acts of 1943 or the bylaws of the District.
  • Prior to the election date, Dorney solicited and received a large number of absentee ballots and, on information and belief, went door to door in the District having those absentee ballots allegedly filled out and returned the absentee ballots at the District meeting.
  • The actions of Dorney in securing and having those ballots voted are completely inconsistent with State Election Law.
  • Moreover, neither the enabling legislation nor the bylaws of the Prudential Committee permit State Election Law to be utilized in voting for the Prudential members. Under the law, only members present at the District Meeting are available to vote.
  • To compound the illegality of the election, it was announced at the district meeting on the date of the election when the votes were counted that there were allegedly “additional” absentee ballots which would need to be counted. The alleged additional absentee ballots were not present on the night of the count.
  • Therefore, the final vote tally was not announced on the night of the election, but rather was announced three (3) days later.
  • On information and belief, after the district meeting Dorney took additional blank absentee ballots and secured votes after the District election for himself, thus securing re-election to the Prudential Committee.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Dalessio v Three Rivers Fire District

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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