Former New Bedford fire chief fired after investigation into injury claim

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NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) – New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell fired the city’s former acting fire chief on Tuesday after an internal investigation accused him of lying about the extent of the fire. his work-related injuries.

Mitchell said Deputy Fire Chief Paul Coderre claimed to have suffered a number of work-related injuries throughout 2019. Coderre was then placed on accident leave in August 2020, during which time he received full salary, non-taxable, as required by state law.

Throughout his furlough, Mitchell said Coderre received $208,574 in workers’ compensation benefits.

Last fall, Mitchell said the city ordered Coderre to undergo an independent medical examination, “to determine his continued eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits.”

This examination, according to Mitchell, was the result of an investigation into Coderre’s injuries by the New Bedford personnel office.

The investigation began last summer when the personnel office conducted CCTV on Corderre “performing activities inconsistent with his alleged injuries,” Mitchell said.

(The story continues below the video, provided by the City of New Bedford)

Those activities included Coderre unloading a 176-pound barbecue smoker’s grill from the bed of his pickup truck, according to the investigation.

At first, the Independent Medical Examiner initially accepted Coderre’s account of his injuries. But when the medical examiner was later presented with the surveillance footage, Mitchell said the medical examiner reassessed Coderre’s condition, ultimately concluding that he had “staged”.

Earlier this month, Mitchell appointed Gerard Hayes, a retired municipal human resources professional, to determine if there was a valid reason to discipline Coderre.

In a hearing that Coderre and his attorney declined to attend, Mitchell said Hayes reported his findings.

Hayes, according to Mitchell, determined that Coderre had “engaged in activity detrimental to the [New Bedford] Firefighters.”

“He entered into a conflict of interest to use his position for personal gain,” Hayes wrote in his report. “He abused the department’s accident leave policy.”

“It is likely that these actions were known within the generally tight-knit firefighting community with a negative impact on member morale and discipline,” he continued. “It would not be a surprise if this led to a very serious disrespect for senior officers by some and attempts at similar dishonest behavior.”

Mitchell condemned Coderre’s actions stating that Coderre, “did not follow the policies and procedures of his own department.”

“In doing so, he betrayed the trust of the firefighters who served under him and he took advantage of the city taxpayers who paid his workers’ compensation benefits,” Mitchell said. “New Bedford residents expect and deserve a fire department in which every member adheres to the highest professional standards, regardless of rank. »

Coderre had been named acting fire chief in 2018 when the former department chief retired. He regained deputy chief status once Chief Scott Kruger was appointed earlier this month.

Mitchell said Coderre applied for an accidental disability pension through the New Bedford Retirement Board last month. Mitchell said they provided the findings of their investigation to the pension commission.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 12 News is trying to reach Coderre for comment.

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