State sues former Mass. fire chief amid civil service exam prep investigation
The Massachusetts' Attorney General's office accused former Taunton Fire Chief Leman Padelford of dodging subpoenas as the state investigates his firefighter test prep company
Taunton Daily Gazette, Mass.
TAUNTON, Mass. — The Attorney General's office has sued former Taunton Fire Chief Leman Padelford, accusing him of dodging subpoenas as the state investigates his firefighter test prep company.
The state alleges that Beagle's Exam Service, which Padelford owns, hasn't cooperated in a probe about the service's allegedly selling actual past exams as "practice" exams. It's seeking to compel him and his company to give testimony.
In an Aug. 13 court filing, the Massachusetts Civil Service Commission claims that exams sold by Beagle's Exam Service "bear a troublingly close resemblance to the actual exams that had been previously administered by the Civil Service Unit of the Massachusetts Human Resources Division for the positions of fire lieutenant, captain and chief — despite the fact that these actual, past exams are maintained in strict confidence and not available to the public."
Padelford, reached Monday, declined to discuss the allegations.
"At this point in time, it's not clear where this is going," said the Taunton resident, noting that the dispute over subpoenas is the only legal issue on the table right now.
"It's in front of a superior court judge," Padelford said. "That's the issue and that's the only issue in front of the judge."
Padelford retired as the city's fire chief in 2009 after his own firefighters gave him a no-confidence vote of 104 to 1. During his three-year tenure as chief, Taunton's Local 1391 of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts alleged he failed to keep critical equipment like air tanks and radios inspected and in good repair, among other criticisms. The City Council held disciplinary hearings at the time on charges he failed to fulfill his duties as chief.
Would-be firefighters must pass written and physical tests. Further tests apply as firefighters seek to move up the ranks.
A fire captain asked the Civil Service Commission to look into Beagle's Exam Service in 2019, according to the Commonwealth's court filing. The captain said a lieutenant he knew had bought from Beagle's the 2017 exam for jakes seeking promotion to captain. The captain said the lieutenant used the document to "unfairly prepare" for a make-up exam he took on Nov. 2, 2018. The captain said the lieutenant was able to ace the exam despite only starting his prep a month in advance, during a time the lieutenant was working 100 hours a week.
The filing cites an email from Christopher Bowman, chairman of the Civil Service Commission, to Padelford's lawyer.
"The matter currently under investigation by the Commission and HRD [Human Resources Division] cuts to the core of the civil service system: ensuring the fairness and integrity of the testing process, the bedrock of the process used to appoint and promote candidates to civil service positions in Massachusetts," the email read.
Padelford said he may have more to say later about the Commonwealth's investigation.
"I'd be happy at some point to have a discussion of the facts and the truth," the former fire chief said. "This is not going to be resolved in the court of public opinion."
Beagle's Exam Service was founded decades ago by Robert Beagle, a member of the city's fire department.
Rich MacKinnon, president of Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts, said it's common for firefighters to form study groups before tests and for those who just took the same exam to afterwards share how they might've answered certain questions.
Without getting into the details of the Commonwealth's allegations, MacKinnon said the civil service system protects against favoritism and provides transparency.
"It takes the politics and nepotism out of things," said MacKinnon.
He pointed to a recent example in the Wellesley Fire Department, which no longer uses the civil service system. In an Aug. 5 ruling, the State Ethics Commission fined Wellesley Fire Chief Richard DeLorie $10,000 for violating anti-nepotism laws in the hiring of his son as a Wellesley firefighter.
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