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Published on Dec 21, 2007
Following a series of emergency response dash camera videos posted on YouTube by Fire Chief Rick Goodell, the Town Select Board closed the Fire Department.
The decision was made during an illegal executive session with only 3 of the 5 members present, no representation from the FD and without consideration of the Town Manager's recommendations.
The Board members included Robert Tasker, Victoria Donaldson and Chairman Leroy Hall. Mr. Hall was at the time also a member of Etna Rescue and Captain of a neighboring FD that stood to gain financially by providing mutual aid during the closure. Mr. Hall had served as Etna Fire Chief many years ago, but left amid controversy over a substantial sum of money missing from FD sponsored beano games. Clear conflict of interest should have prevented Mr. Hall from the vote, but without it there was no quorum.
The Board cited concern over potential for unwanted publicity and liability when it banned videos produced by the Chief from within his privately owned vehicle and with his own personal camera.
As a result of the actions taken by the Town, the story received significant local, state, national and even international coverage. Although the issue of the videotaping was never directly addressed or resolved for the Etna FD aside from complete censorship, it is hoped that awareness is raised and the question has been posed for similar organizations everywhere.
The Fire Chief was disciplined for violating what was neither a Town Policy nor a written agreement, but rather a verbal directive that the Board had no authority to impose in the first place. The net result was unpaid suspension, followed by an additional unpaid probationary period for the Chief who eventually resigned and joined another Department.
Despite a pattern of errors, poor judgment and illegal actions by our local government, the members maintain that they were completely justified, appropriate and responsible during these events. Deaf to requests for apologies and resignations, Board members continue on oblivious to the will and best interests of the people.
A group of citizens is actively communicating with the Maine Attorney General's office with the belief that enough "red flags" have been raised to warrant an investigation in to the workings of the Etna Town government. There has been no action taken to date.