Firefighters decry delay in hiring Wareham's next chief

Jun 7, 2018

The search for Wareham’s next fire chief has been delayed by a state Attorney General’s Office ruling, prompting an outcry from firefighters who are overwhelmingly backing one of the four internal candidates.

The Wareham Fire Department has been without a permanent chief since July when Robert McDuffy retired after 18 years. Patrick Haskell has served as acting chief since then, and he is one of the candidates vying for the spot.

The other candidates are Capt. Mickey Bird, Assistant Fire Chief John Kelley and Capt. Matt Rowley.

On June 6, firefighters submitted a petition that included enough signatures to fill two pages backing Rowley. The petition was handed to members of the Prudential Committee, who are tasked with hiring the next chief.

Committee members were scheduled to make a decision that night, but informed firefighters a conflict of interest would delay the vote.

Chair Ron Enos said committee member George Barrett would not be allowed to vote because Barrett’s son is in the department.

“I know this has been a long process,” said Enos. “But we were told by counsel to reset the clock.”

Enos said the candidates would undergo a public interview process. Then, committee members would vote in a few weeks.

Some firefighters wanted to know why the state’s ruling didn’t force members to start the process over. They noted Barrett was involved from the beginning.

“Tell me how, then, this whole process is not null and void?” one firefighter asked.

“I’m not going to comment on that,” Enos responded.

The process included closed door interviews with the candidates and an assessment performed by an outside firm. Enos said the results of those assessments would be released to the candidates.

When asked why the public interviews weren’t part of the initial process, Enos said: “We think it’s important to do the public interviews at this time.”

During the June 6 meeting, which was attended by roughly 25 firefighters, one member in the department said the delay was frustrating.

“This is affecting our health and our job performance. We had a three-alarm fire this morning wondering who will be the chief tonight,” he said, referring to a blaze that destroyed a home on Great Neck Road earlier that day.