Judge rules fire chief, 2 others hired improperly 
By Joanne M. Pelton, Naugatuck Valley Bureau Chief    June 24, 2000

SHELTON ó A Superior Court judge in Derby ruled Friday that the fire chief and two assistant chiefs were improperly hired two years ago and that their appointments should be declared null and void.

In December 1998, seven firefighters filed a lawsuit saying the Board of Fire Commissioners erred when it appointed Fire Chief John Millo and assistant chiefs Stephen Nesteriak and Justin Sabatino. They were appointed to their paid positions after failing a state-supplied examination.

Millo makes $10,000 a year for his work. Nesteriak and Sabatino each earns $4,500.

The Board of Fire Commissioners appointed the three even though they failed the written exam. They were allowed to take the oral test and then appointed.

The plaintiffs maintained the board had changed the rules regarding the number of votes needed to appoint someone, and that the board lowered the number of votes needed in order to hire.

Prior to the change, a three-fourths majority was needed to ratify an appointment. Only a simple majority is needed under the rule revision.

Judge George Ripley II in a written decision said the Board of Fire Commissioners altered its rules to provide a desired result. This, he said, "smacks of unfairness as to those initially applying for the positions." Ripley said that rules governing how appointments are made were in place at the time, and that those who applied for the jobs had no reason to think that the rules would be changed.

The judge said the commission could have thrown out the first test scores, made changes to the rules surrounding how it voted and then taken new applications. "Had this been done there would be no perception as to unfairness," Ripley wrote.

Derby lawyer Gene Micci, who represents the seven firefighters, said they are pleased with the ruling. "We believe this will make a permanent change in how promotions in Shelton are given in the future," he said. Micci said none of his clients sued for money, or for any of the positions. "We filed the lawsuit because they thought the hiring process was done unfairly."

Kenneth Nappi, chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners said he was "shocked" by the decision and would discuss it with Corporation Counsel John Welch Jr. "I havenít seen it, so I donít want to comment any further," he said.

Nappi said he did not know if the city would appeal or what the boardís course of action will be. Welch could not be reached for comment.

Milloís appointment is up in July. He could not be reached for comment.

The suit, which was heard in April, named the board of fire commissioners, Millo, Nesteriak, Sabatino, the city of Shelton and Public Safety Director Kenneth Nappi as defendants.

Plaintiffs are volunteer firefighters Robert Albert, Anthony Martinka, Francis Wheeler, Timothy Manion, Edward Tevolitz, Alan Ovesny and Anthony DeSarli. All are still firefighters.