SULLIVAN — The town’s Select Board voted 2-1 Monday night to remove current Fire Chief Ben Gilley.
Select Board Chairman Michael Pinkham and board member Rusty Gordon voted to remove Gilley from his position with Sullivan Fire/Rescue following an executive session. Pinkham made the motion to do so. Roger Wakefield was opposed.
Pinkham said that Gilley was removed after two letters had been submitted to the town expressing a lack of confidence in Gilley’s leadership. One was from current firefighters and firefighters who left the department some months ago “because of the way it was being managed.” The other letter was from residents and businesses who also expressed concern with the department’s leadership.
Pinkham said nine firefighters signed the first letter, which is more than half of the department, and 39 residents (which included a couple businesses) signed the other letter.
“I think we were obligated to act on [the letters],” Pinkham said. He added there has been “turmoil” in the department for some time.
Members of the department “need to cooperate as one,” he said.
He said that Gilley was given the letters last week, with names redacted to protect confidentiality, but signers were invited to speak at Monday’s executive session.
Michael Pinkham II, board Chairman Pinkham’s son, has been named acting chief of Sullivan Fire/Rescue by Town Manager Stacy Tozier, effective immediately.
According to the town’s Fire Department Ordinance regarding a fire chief vacancy, “the town manager shall recommend a replacement for approval of the Board of Selectmen in accordance with the provisions … of this ordinance,” which also calls for a vote by the department’s membership.
“That’s her [Tozier’s] decision, not mine,” Chairman Pinkham noted. “I didn’t tell her what to do.”
Pinkham II was the department’s deputy chief until his most recent term expired. He remained with the department after his term expired, but then decided to leave, and subsequently became a firefighter in neighboring Franklin.
Chairman Pinkham said he represents taxpayers, not himself or his son, when he makes decisions as part of the select board.
“I conduct business as a representative of the taxpayers of the town of Sullivan,” he said.
The American could not reach Gilley for comment by press time.