Panel expected to alter fire hiring
Rick Scavetta, Register Staff      July 19, 2000

SHELTON — The Board of Fire Commissioners plans to change job descriptions and hiring practices for top fire officials tonight.Suggestions will include adding more state certifications and limiting terms for the fire chief and the assistant fire chief, commissioners said. Job candidates may also go before a board of peers before being hired in the future.

Commissioner Wayne Travers said the board discussed the issues on tonight’s agenda at an informal work session last Wednesday. 

"They’re all suggestions at this point. But this way, it is spelled out," Travers said. "It will eliminate any gray areas." 

The current job descriptions have not been updated for nearly two decades. 

The proposed changes are prompted by a lawsuit filed by seven firefighters after the commission hired Fire Chief John Millo and two assistant chiefs two years ago. 

Tests for the fire chiefs and assistant chiefs sparked controversy when the department threw out the results and re-tested. 

The seven firefighters charged that the scores were thrown out because of favoritism on the board toward Millo, who scored lower than others on the initial test. 

Even when Millo scored lower on the second test, the board chose the 27-year veteran to lead the department. Stephen Nesteriak and Justin Sabatino were appointed assistant chiefs. 

The seven volunteer firefighters from White Hills who filed the lawsuit against the city won their legal battle in June, when a Derby Superior Court judge said the commission was wrong to change its rules for the second test. 

Commissioners tonight will look at lengthening the chief’s term from two to three years. But a cap would allow the chief to serve only two terms. Assistant chiefs would serve a maximum of three terms.Under proposed guidelines, the current residency requirement would be eliminated for the superintendent of alarms, but not for line chiefs, Travers said. 

When his 18-month term expired June 30, the board appointed Millo to a temporary 60-day position as acting fire chief. Under that self-imposed 60-day deadline, the board has just over a month left to decide on changes to the selection process. 

If the ideas are approved, Travers said the board would advertise for applications, set up the new oral board and schedule a new test date.