No Comment On Suspension Of Fire Chief, Treasurer
The December meeting of the Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners began with a statement by Chairman Barry Underwood that no comment could be made on last month’s suspension of the fire chief and treasurer.
It ended with the resignation of Dave Spann, a two-year member of the commission who also sits on the Westfield Town Board.
Last month, Westfield Fire Chief Stephen Pacanowski and fire department Treasurer Jim Pacanowski were suspended from their duties immediately following an executive session of the Board of Fire Commissioners. No reasons were given for the suspensions, but the BOFC commented that they had reasons, that these reasons would be made known at a later date, and that they were being kept private in order to “protect” the suspended officers. To date no one, including the Pacanowskis, has been informed of the reasons for the suspensions.
Meanwhile acting Fire Chief William Bills and Assistant Jerry Ruch have stepped in to run the fire department, and by all accounts on all sides – department members as well as commission members – are very pleased with the job the two have been doing. At the Tuesday night meeting it was necessary to take steps to appoint an acting treasurer, so that the department could pay its bills in the absence of a functioning treasurer.
At the conclusion of the commission meeting, and prior to the executive session, Spann announced that he is resigning from the BOFC, effective immediately. He commented that he had expected to function as a liaison between town and fire department, and this he was happy to do. But now he feels that the commission is moving into overseeing operations of the fire department. Spann feels that he does not know enough about the functioning of a fire department to perform this job effectively.
It had been announced at the October meeting of the BOFC that a committee was being formed to work with a consultant in an effort to improve the relationship between the village and town, the fire department, and the Board of Commissioners. The first meeting of the committee, which is composed of member of the town and village boards, the mayor, representatives of the BOFC and fire department representatives, is scheduled for Monday.
Cliff Brown, an appointed fire department member of the committee and a 45-year member of the department, announced that he would not attend the consultant committee meetings so long as the “black cloud” of unexplained officer suspensions continued to hang over the department. Underwood commented that this would be a counter-productive measure.
No BOFC action was taken after the executive session that followed the meeting.