South Hadley Fire District 1 to keep Robert Authier as chief despite refusing to renew contract

By Jim Russell | Special to The Republican

The South Hadley Fire District 1 Prudential Committee has notified Fire Chief Robert Authier they intend to keep him as chief, even though the board has not renewed his contract that expires on Dec. 30.

Earlier this year, the three member panel had begun a search for a replacement chief.

But in a letter to Authier, Prudential Committee Chairman Kevin Taugher said that state law precludes them from getting rid of him without cause.

“Your employment with the Fire District will continue, consistent with the Fire District’s adoption of Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 48 section 42,” Taugher’s Nov. 30 letter says:

That statute, known as the “strong chief” provision, precludes a municipality that has adopted it from removing a fire chief without cause.

In an interview last month, the chief said he had retained lawyer Andrew Gambaccini, of the Worcester firm Reardon, Joyce & Akerson, to represent him.

According to the Prudential Committee agenda for the upcoming Dec. 15 meeting, there will be “discussion and vote on chief’s compensation subsequent to Dec. 30, 2015.”

Meeting minutes from earlier this year record Taugher as as saying, “It is likely that we will have to have an interim chief.”

South Hadley has two fire districts. Neither are under the jurisdiction of selectmen and town administrator. Both districts are governed by a prudential committee.

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