Updated

Fire captain appeals his termination

Nearly 3-hour meeting to be continued Tuesday
By Jordan Bailey | Aug 04, 2017
Photo by: Jordan Bailey A.J. Koch, left, exits Searsport Town Office Thursday evening at 9:15 p.m.

Searsport — The Board of Appeals met for more than two and a half hours behind closed doors Thursday night, Aug. 3, to hear the appeal of A.J. Koch against his termination. He is a captain with Searsport Fire Department.

The board took no action that night, and will continue the meeting Tuesday evening.

Before the meeting began, the board was engaging in light banter while Koch quietly organized papers and prepared to present a slideshow from his laptop. Town Manager James Gillway met with attorney Kristin Collins in his office.

When they returned, the meeting was called to order at 6:37 p.m. and the board voted to enter executive session to discuss a personnel matter. According to state statute, the employee under discussion may submit a written request to open the meeting to the public, but Gillway said Koch had not done so, and the meeting remained closed until it adjourned.

At about 6:50 p.m. Emergency Management director and board Vice Chairman Almon "Bud" Rivers exited the building, saying, “They don’t want me to participate.”

About eight people, some wearing Searsport Fire T-shirts, were called into the executive session one at a time until about 9 p.m. The board and other participants exited the Town Office at 9:15 p.m.

As he was leaving, Gillway summarized the issue under discussion as an appeal of an action the town had taken that is within its policy.

Afterward Koch told The Journal that he received a termination letter dated June 29 and he was appealing his termination. He said the issue has been ongoing and he was treated unfairly, but declined to comment further because the appeal is being continued.

The town amended its Fire Department ordinance at the annual town meeting in March to add a section on demotions.

That ordinance allows the fire chief to demote an appointed officer in rank by one level for disciplinary reasons "when verbal and written warnings for actions are ineffective or if the employee's behavior is egregious enough to warrant."

It is not known whether the amendment was related to this matter. The board of appeals is scheduled to continue discussion of the appeal Aug. 8 at 6:00 p.m. at the Town Office.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the date of the termination letter and to reflect a change in the scheduled time for the continuation of the appeal.

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Jordan M Bailey
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Jordan Bailey has been working for The Republican Journal since 2013. She studied philosophy at Boston College and has experience in marine science education and journalism. She lives in Belfast.

 

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