February 4

Former West Gardiner fire chief elected again

Chris McLaughlin was replaced by Vicki Dill a year ago after Dill and the town agreed to an undisclosed settlement to resolve complaints that the town refused to appoint Dill as fire chief earlier because she’s a woman.

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

WEST GARDINER — Chris McLaughlin was back as West Gardiner’s fire chief as of Saturday after being replaced by Vicki Dill a year ago as part of an agreement between Dill and the town.

Dill replaced McLaughlin in February last year after Dill and the town agreed to an undisclosed settlement to resolve complaints that the town had refused to appoint Dill as fire chief earlier because she’s a woman.

The West Gardiner Firemen’s Association elected McLaughlin, 30, at its election in January. McLaughlin got 16 votes to Dill’s five, according to Gregory Couture, chairman of the West Gardiner Board of Selectmen, which administered the election.

McLaughlin, who is a full-time firefighter and paramedic for the city of Augusta, had had been fire chief of West Gardiner’s volunteer department for a little more than two years before the selectmen told him Dill would be replacing him near the start of last year.

“I know a majority of the guys were happy to see me back in,” McLaughlin said Tuesday. “There were a lot of projects and things I was working on to improve the department that I can get back to. I enjoyed it while I was there.”

McLaughlin also served as fire chief for about a month when the selectmen fired Dill, the department’s first female chief, in May for not meeting the requirements of the position. A month later, the board reversed its decision after receiving addition information about her training, Couture said.

Dill did not return a phone call seeking comment.

West Gardiner amended the fire chief’s qualifications in November 2012 to include the requirement that the chief must be able to drive, operate and set up all firetrucks and be able to use all firefighting equipment.

The town also added a requirement to maintain good working relationships with municipal officials, Fire Department members, state and federal authorities, and the public.

Couture said McLaughlin submitted a resume with qualifications that showed he meets the requirements of the fire chief’s position.

Selectmen and the town’s attorney, Jonathan Brogan, of the firm Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, have refused to disclose the terms of the settlement. Brogan denied a Kennebec Journal public records request for the details on the grounds that a settlement or conciliation information is confidential in Maine Human Rights Commission cases.

Voters at last year’s annual Town Meeting in March approved spending $5,000 to repay the Maine Municipal Property and Casualty Pool loan in connection with Dill’s settlement.

Paul Koenig — 207-621-5663 pkoenig@centralmaine.com Twitter: @paul_koenig
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