Former Granby Fire Chief John Mitchell wins second arbitration; town ordered to pay him 90 days back pay

By Jim Russell | Special to The Republican

GRANBY – A 90-day suspension the selectboard meted out to then-fire chief John Mitchell last year violated his employment rights and was not justified, according to a recent arbitration decision – ordering the town of Granby to pay him the lost wages and benefits.

The select board voted in July to fire him, after having suspended him without pay twice last year – once for 30 days, and then 90 days.

The town had already been ordered, in a previous arbitration decision, to pay Mitchell his back wages for the 30 day suspension.

The Dec. 17 arbitration decision ordering Granby to pay the ex-chief the 90 days of lost wages means the town lacked cause to suspend him in both instances.

“I note in the 90-day suspension case, there is no record of Town Administrator recommending that suspension which is unusual. The Board, on its motion, decided to impose it. The Board was not at all specific as to what facts or circumstances led it to impose an additional 90-day penalty. The arbitrator should not have to guess what the additional facts are that caused an additional penalty to be imposed. Was it the Board substituting its judgment for the Town Administrator’s recommendations?” arbitrator Marsha Saylor wrote.

“The record’s lack of clarity is problematic,” she wrote.

An arbitration hearing to adjudicate whether the town had cause to fire him has not yet been scheduled.

Mitchell’s employment contract with the town was due to expire on June 30, 2021.

The Republican has reached out to Granby Town Administrator Chris Martin for comment.

Mitchell’s attorney, Andrew J. Gambaccini of the Worcester firm Reardon, Joyce & Akerson, P.C., in a written statement said: “We now have seen, for the second time, the Town be advised by an independent arbitrator that its disciplinary action against Mitchell was unjustified and not in conformity with the law. We expect more of the same on the evaluation of the bases for the Chief’s termination.”

“The Town’s actions did much to malign the Chief’s name and we will continue to work toward an overall repudiation of the Town’s disciplinary actions toward Chief Mitchell,” the lawyer said.

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