Fire chiefs promoted illegally: 
  ruling 7 Shelton firefighters sue after 3 failed written test 

  By FELICIA HUNTER      Saturday, June 24, 2000
SHELTON - Three high-ranking Shelton Fire Department administrators were illegally promoted and should step down, a judge ruled Friday. 

Superior Court Judge George W. Ripley II said in his decision that he Board of Fire Commissioners acted improperly when it voted to promote Fire Chief John Millo and Assistant Fire Chiefs Justin Sabatino and Stephen Nesteriak on Dec. 15, 1998

               Seven firefighters filed suit, saying that although Millo, Sabatino and Nesteriak failed a required written exam, the Board of Fire Commissions still promoted them

               "I'm very pleased with the decision - it's the correct decision," said
               Eugene D. Micci, who represented the seven firefighters. "The judge's
               ruling speaks for itself. We hope it makes a permanent change in the
               manner decisions are made in the fire department." 

               Millo, Sabatino, Nesteriak and Corporation Counsel John Welch, who
               represented them, could not be reached for comment. It was not
               immediately clear what the next step for the three will be or whether
               they will appeal. 

               At issue is a written test taken as part of the application process. A test
               score of at least 70 had to be achieved for a person to be deemed a
               qualified job candidate. Only one person received a passing score. Millo,
               Sabatino and Nesteriak did not. 

               The minimum test-score requirement subsequently was waived, allowing
               all applicants, even those who did not initially pass the test, to continue
               with the application process. 

               An additional point of contention was alteration of the procedure
               required to change bylaws and make appointments. 

               During the Dec. 15, 1998, board meeting - the same meeting at which
               the chief and assistant chief appointments were approved - a previous
               requirement of a 75 percent majority vote to effect changes and make
               appointments was changed to a simple majority. This made it easier to
               promote Millo, Sabatino and Nesteriak, the firefighters claimed. 

               In his ruling, Ripley wrote that there were rules in place, with which all
               involved should have been familiar and should have been adhered to
               when making the appointments. 

               Unhappy with the testing results, the commission could have retested,
               the judge said, to avoid a perception of unfairness. 

               "However, having decided to proceed under existing rules and
               subsequently altering them to adjust to circumstances in order to
               provide a desired result smacks of unfairness as to those initially applying
               for the positions," the judge ruled. 

               Felicia Hunter, Valley bureau chief, can be reached at 736-5441.