Erving board appoints fire chief

ERVING — Months of deadlock over the fire chief’s position ended Tuesday evening with the appointment of a new chief by the Board of Selectmen following a second brief spell without a full chief.

In a special meeting that clocked in under five minutes, the two members able to vote appointed First Deputy Chief Phillip Wonkka as chief for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Chairman Andrew Goodwin announced a potential conflict of interest last week that could have ended with the application of the “rule of necessity,” bringing the tie-breaking third member back to the table.

Goodwin said Tuesday the state Ethics Commission had returned an opinion that the issue did not constitute a conflict.

Goodwin first moved that the board appoint Almon “Bud” Meattey, whose two-month interim appointment expired Saturday, as chief for the remainder of the term.

Sullivan said she would not second the motion, and moved instead to appoint Wonkka, the sole remaining finalist from a fire chief search process begun before Meattey’s annual appointment expired.

“Just for the record I have voiced that I disagree with this,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said that it was not in the best interests of the town for the assistant chiefs to continue filling the gap without the full legal authority of the chief, as they had over the past couple of days.

“So I will second that motion for the best interests of the town,” Goodwin said.

The fire chief’s position has been a consistent and controversial topic of discussion at selectmen’s meetings since June 30, when Meattey’s annual appointment expired.

In a compromise with each other, Sullivan and Goodwin reappointed Meattey temporarily while the search process continued, appointed two new members to the search committee after Meattey’s supporters questioned its composition, and later hired a professional mediator for a department presented as internally divided between the two stations by firefighters opposed to Meattey.

Selectman Eugene Klepadlo’s conflict has sidelined him from discussions and votes regarding the controversial chief’s issue from the start, leaving the committee deadlocked, with Goodwin and member Margaret Sullivan divided on the issue.

Goodwin has expressed support for Meattey, while Sullivan has challenged his ability as an administrator.

Goodwin’s recent declaration of a possible conflict stalled the discussion last week.

Klepadlo’s conflict of interest stemmed from the fact that his son had expressed the intention to join the Fire Department. His son has since joined the department.

Goodwin said he had the same potential conflict as Klepadlo, but Tuesday said the Ethics Commission had decided the issue was not an actual conflict because it is not immediate in nature due to his son’s age.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

Editor’s Note: The headline and elements of this story were changed or added from the original published story.

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