No appeal of ruling on fire hirings
By Jean Falbo-Sosnovich, Register Correspondent       June 28, 2000 

SHELTON ó The Board of Fire Commissioners on Tuesday decided not to appeal a recent ruling by a Superior Court judge that three of the departmentís highest ranking officers were illegally hired.

The board met at EMS headquarters behind closed doors for one hour and decided not to appeal after reviewing the case with Corporation Counsel Thomas Welch. 

Kenneth Nappi, commission chairman said, "I donít believe the consensus of the commission is to appeal (the ruling.)"  He said there is a 20-day appeal period, but at this point they donít think this is the route they will take. 

Instead, the board voted 4-1 to temporarily appoint Chief John Millo and assistants Stephen Nesteriak and Justin Sabatino. 

Their terms expire June 30 and will be extended for 60 days.  In the meantime, the board will revise job descriptions and will be accepting applications for the positions in August. 

Nappi said the three will stay on until replacements are found so that there is a "continuity of command." 

Superior Court Judge George W. Ripley II, last Friday, ordered the jobs of the fire chief and two assistant fire chiefs be declared vacant.  Ripley heard two days of testimony in April on the case, which was brought forth by seven Shelton firefighters who were upset with the way Chief Millo and assistant chiefs Sabatino and Nesteriak were hired back in 1998. 

The firefighters, in their lawsuit against the city, claimed the hiring standards were relaxed for the top positions, and said the testing process was unfair.  Ripley ruled along with the firefighters, saying the fire commissioners acted improperly when they allowed all applicants, regardless of their performance on a written test, to take an oral test for fire chief and assistant chief positions.  Millo, Sabatino and Nesteriak all failed the written portion of the test. 

The only individual that passed both the written and oral portion of the test for both fire chief and assistant chief was Soren Ibsen. 

Ibsen was one of the firefighters who filed the suit. 

None of the firefighters said they were unhappy with the individuals who currently hold the positions, but rather were not happy with the relaxed testing standards given to them.  One of the plaintiffs, Capt. Tim Manion of the White Hills Fire Company had said he was pleased with the court decision, adding that changes in the hiring process prompted the suit, not those who were hired. 

Manion said the decision by Ripley was all about fairness, and will be better for those individuals who plan to take the tests in the future for officer ranks. 

The terms for both chief and assistant chiefs expire this Saturday, but the fire commissioners voted to extend the terms last week-before the court ruling.  The term for fire chief and assistant chief in the city is two years.  After the term expires, the fire commissioners vote to either reappoint the same individual or look for new candidates. 

©New Haven Register 2000