BOFC Forwards Findings To Public Integrity Unit

WESTFIELD – The Westfield Board of Fire Commissioners announced at its March meeting that as a result of the hearings held for the suspended fire chief and treasurer, the findings have been forwarded to the Public Integrity Unit of the New York State Attorney General’s Office.

This was done for the purpose of an investigation of possible mishandling or criminal mishandling of public funds. The board again said that they are prohibited from speaking on the matter.

Commissioner Brad Szymczak was not present, and Chair Barry Underwood announced that Szymczak has resigned as a member of the BOFC – which means that the normally constituted five-member board now has only three members. Commissioner Dave Spann resigned at the end of December’s board meeting. Westfield Mayor Mike VandeVelde sat with the commissioners ex officio but said that he was not appointing himself as a member of the board.

Because there has been confusion and discord over the proper role of the BOFC, and the degree to which the board can control the fire department’s budget, activities and membership, the commission handed out to those present the original resolution establishing the BOFC, the New York State Fire Department Law defining the powers of the BOFC, the duties of fire department officers and the parameters for entering into executive session under the Open Meeting Law. Much of this information has been placed on the Westfield village website.

Chief Bill Bills addressed the board on last month’s rather heated public comments, saying that he felt that no finger-pointing was intended, that there was no intent to attack any particular individual and that fire department members had wanted an opportunity to show their perspective on matters. He said they viewed the meeting as an opportunity to share information discussed in the fire hall with “those who needed to hear it.”