PORTLAND — Appeals of the discipline meted out to a Portland fire captain and a firefighter will likely keep the city’s official account of a costly accident aboard its fireboat under wraps for about a year.

Capt. Christopher Goodall and firefighter Joseph Murphy were suspended after a “training run” Oct. 15 aboard the $3.2 million City of Portland IV. City officials didn’t disclose the accident for days, failed to notify the Coast Guard as required and said that Goodall had invited 12 family members and guests aboard the fireboat for the trip.

The fireboat hit an underwater object near Fort Gorges, and the impact sheared off a drive shaft and damaged a propeller and the boat’s rudder. The damage cost nearly $60,000 to repair; the city had to cover $25,000 of the cost because of the deductible in its insurance policy on the fireboat.

Goodall and Murphy were disciplined for failing to follow proper procedures and Coast Guard navigational rules in what Fire Chief Fred LaMontagne determined was an avoidable accident.

Goodall was suspended for 10 days without pay and Murphy was suspended for three days without pay.

The suspensions, according to city officials, were based on the failure to have both Goodall and Murphy operating the boat while keeping watch for other boats, underwater hazards and conditions such as the depth of the water. Neither man was disciplined for having the civilians aboard because the city had no policy on that issue, city officials said.


LaMontagne and City Manager Mark Rees have since developed a policy that limits the use of the fireboat primarily to fighting fires, transporting patients from the Casco Bay islands to mainland hospitals, ferrying city officials on trips to the islands, and other trips that are approved in advance by Rees.

The city has refused to release all but the barest details of LaMontagne’s investigation of the accident that led to the suspensions, which have been served. City officials said they won’t release any more information, including LaMontagne’s report, until the appeals process runs its course, which could take a year or more.

Now that the two men and the union have appealed the discipline, LaMontagne must hear the appeal within 10 days and issue a written decision within 10 days after the hearing. The appeal can then be pushed to the city’s human resources manager, then the city manager and then an arbitrator.

Under the time limits in the firefighters’ contract, that part of the process could take 100 days if the maximum time is used to issue an appeal, hold the hearing and then issue a written decision.

After that process, the two could seek arbitration, which often takes months to schedule. The arbitrator would have a month after a hearing to issue a ruling.

Union President John Brooks declined to comment on the appeal. Calls to the union’s lawyer Wednesday were not returned.

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