Acting Mass. fire chief fired for dishonesty

A New Bedford investigation revealed that Deputy Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr. collected more than $200,000 after "putting on an act" related to on-duty injuries


Michael Bonner
masslive.com

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — A New Bedford acting fire chief was fired this week after a city investigation revealed he was “putting on an act” related to alleged on-duty injuries that allowed him to collect more than $200,000 in compensation while on paid leave.

Acting Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr. was fired for dishonesty and untruthfulness in connection with alleged work-related injuries, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced earlier this week.

Acting Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr. collected more than $200,000 in compensation while on paid leave.
Acting Fire Chief Paul Coderre Jr. collected more than $200,000 in compensation while on paid leave. (Image/New Bedford Fire Department)

“The former Acting Chief failed to adhere to the policies and procedures of his own Department, in doing so he betrayed the trust of the firefighters that served under his command, and he took advantage of city taxpayers who paid his injured-on-duty benefits,” Mitchell said. “New Bedford residents expect and deserve a Fire Department whose every member adheres to the highest professional standards, regardless of rank.”

Coderre, according to the city, claimed he suffered work-related injuries in 2018, which resulted in him being placed on injury leave in August of 2020. Coderre remained out of work since that time.

Coderre received $208,574 in injured-on-duty benefits while he was on injury leave during the 16-month period from August 2020 through the end of 2021, the city said. Coderre also benefitted from laws which exempted him from paying any state or federal income taxes while on injury leave, the city said.

Coderre’s annual salary as Acting Fire Chief was approximately $150,000.

In the summer of 2021, though, New Bedford’s personnel office launched an investigation into Coderre’s claims. The investigation returned video evidence of Coderre performing activities inconsistent with his alleged injuries, including his unloading, without assistance, a 176-pound barbeque smoker grill from the bed of his personal pickup truck.

In the fall of 2021, the city ordered Coderre to undergo an independent medical examination in order to determine his eligibility for injured-on-duty benefits.

The independent medical examiner initially accepted Coderre’s claim of on-duty injuries limiting his ability to perform other tasks. However, when presented with the video evidence captured on multiple days in June and August 2021, the examiner reassessed Coderre’s assertions. The examiner, the city said, concluded Coderre was “untruthful” and “putting on an act.”

As a result, Mitchell appointed Gerard Hayes, a hearing officer, in January to determine whether there was just cause to discipline Coderre under Massachusetts Civil Service law. Hayes, a retired municipal human resources professional, held a hearing on January 13. Coderre and his attorney didn’t attend, the city said.

In a report Hayes found, Coderre “engaged in an activity that is detrimental to the Fire Department. He engaged in conflict of interest to use his position for personal gain. He abused the department injury leave policy.”

The report also said that Coderre’s actions were known within the “tight knit firefighter community” which generated an “adverse impact on member morale and discipline.”

In December, Coderre applied for an accidental disability pension from the New Bedford Retirement Board. In response to Coderre’s request for disability retirement, New Bedford submitted information from the investigation to the Retirement Board.

Coderre also applied for a superannuation retirement, but remained an active employee at the time of termination.

Coderre served as the New Bedford’s Deputy Fire Chief from 2011 to 2018. He was appointed to Acting Fire Chief in December 2018 upon the retirement of the previous fire chief.

Coderre recently returned to Deputy Chief status upon the permanent appointment of current Fire Chief Scott Kruger earlier this month.

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©2022 Advance Local Media LLC

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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