Connecticut Firefighter’s Drug Death Leads to Discipline of Eight Others

An investigation following the off-duty death of a New Britain firefighter has resulted in the termination of a lieutenant, and the suspension of seven others, four of whom were also demoted. The discipline follows the suspected overdose death of Firefighter Matthew Dizney.

Dizney, 36, was found dead at home on January 26, 2022. Rumors of drug use among firefighters led to an investigation that resulted in the dismissal of a lieutenant in February for “knowingly supplying, giving, selling, sharing and using illegal drugs and (his) prescription Adderall pills, and [lying] about it.”

According to the Hartford Courant, approximately a half-dozen firefighters retired while the matter was being investigated. Seven others were suspended for 30 days without pay. Four of the suspended firefighters were officers who were demoted to private. All seven will be on probation for three years during which time they will be ineligible for promotion.

According to LMTonline, Mayor Erin Stewart was quoted as saying:

  • “I don’t think that ‘drug ring’ is the right term to use. … I think that these guys were all friends, in work and outside of work. Some of them worked in the same companies, but at the end this spanned every company that we have.”
  • “The reason these guys weren’t fired is that each of them told somewhat of their truth. The one that completely lies about everything is the one who was let go”

Fire Chief Rafael Ortiz was quoted in the Hartford Courant as saying:

  • “The individuals who are being brought back are remorseful, they understand the severity of their actions and they’re getting the help they need. … There’s a path to redemption for those individuals.”

IAFF Local 992’s President Ken Keough, was quoted as saying:

  • “We’ve had issues where certain individuals had trouble with drug issues and they’ve had a chance to reform. … Many of them are still seeking out help and I think that’s a good thing.”

According to LMTonline, criminal charges are not expected against any of the involved members.

This is not the first fire department drug problem we have seen recently. Recall the scandal in the North Las Vegas Fire Department that followed the overdose death of a firefighter’s wife, murder charges against the firefighter, a plea deal resulting in a prison term for manslaughter, and a civil suit brought by the family of the deceased naming numerous firefighters and the city.

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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