MA Assistant Fire Chief Penalized for Altering Hiring Process

Firefighter helmet

Cathy Brauner

Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

(MCT)

Sep. 23—The Wellesley Fire Department’s assistant chief has paid a $5,000 civil penalty for altering the hiring process in favor of the fire chief’s son, according to the State Ethics Commission.

Jeffrey Peterson signed an agreement admitting the violations, paid the penalty, and waived his right to a hearing.

Wellesley Fire Chief Richard DeLorie paid a $10,000 civil penalty in August for violations related to his son’s hiring.

In 2018, when the Wellesley Fire Department had openings for three firefighters, DeLorie designated Peterson to oversee the hiring process.

In a press release issued this week,the commission said DeLorie’s son and the son of Peterson’s wife’s cousin were among 88 candidates who passed the firefighter entrance exam. Peterson identified 27 candidates for consideration, then worked with the town’s human resources director to select candidates to interview, including DeLorie’s son and Peterson’s in-law. Peterson was a member of the panel that interviewed eight candidates.

“After the interview panel did not include DeLorie’s son or Peterson’s in-law among the three finalists, DeLorie directed Peterson to halt the hiring process while he conferred with the Board of Selectmen,” according to the Ethics Commission. “Peterson then decided to conduct a second round of interviews focused on the candidates’ community involvement, drafted interview questions to elicit DeLorie’s son’s experience in that area, and excluded the Human Resources Department from the process.”

.After the second round of interviews, DeLorie’s son was selected as one of the candidates recommended for appointment as a firefighter. Peterson’s in-law was not selected. “At this point, an additional firefighter position became open and the Board of Selectmen directed the panel to conduct a third round of interviews,” the commission related. “DeLorie’s son was among the finalists following the third round of interviews, and the Board of Selectmen appointed him as a firefighter.”

The conflict of interest law prohibits public employees from using their official positions to get benefits for themselves or others that are not lawfully theirs, the commission said.. “Peterson violated this prohibition by altering the hiring process to benefit DeLorie’s son. The law also requires that public employees avoid creating the appearance of favoritism in their performance of their official duties. While such appearances may be avoided by a timely disclosure, Peterson selected and interviewed his wife’s cousin’s son without filing a disclosure concerning that relationship, violating the law.”

Public employees can contact the commission’s Legal Division at 617-371-9500 for free advice if they have any questions regarding how the conflict of interest law may apply to them.

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