WEST GARDINER — A fire chief dismissed by the Board of Selectmen last month for not meeting a settlement’s training requirements is back on the job.

Vicki Dill became the town’s first female fire chief in February after signing a settlement to resolve complaints that the town had refused to appoint her as chief in 2009 because she’s a woman.

The chairman of the board, Gregory Couture, said the selectmen reappointed Dill on May 30 after receiving additional information about her training.

“Just knowing more and working with the situation, it was the right thing to do,” Couture said.

The selectmen decided at the beginning of May to replace Dill with the former chief, Chris McLaughlin, because they said she didn’t meet requirements in the settlement.

The selectmen reviewed the documentation of Dill’s fire truck certification during the meeting they dismissed Dill, according to meeting minutes.

Dill said she met with the selectmen, the town attorney and Robert White, a former tow fire chief, on May 29 to discuss her fire truck-driving training.

“I think their decisions were a little hasty at first,” Dill said. “And after they were enlightened on my qualifications and just what I’m capable of doing, they reversed their decision and put me back in as chief.”

Couture said the selectmen believe Dill is qualified to be chief, but not everyone in the fire department is convinced.

Scott Taylor, president of the West Gardiner Firemen’s Association, said he and about 10 other firefighters in the 19-member association don’t think Dill is qualified.

“She has never shown anybody in the fire department that she can operate a truck,” Taylor said. “She had a past chief sign her off that she’s qualified to operate the trucks.”

Taylor said the town’s written qualifications for fire chief are vague, and the town was told it would lose a lawsuit against Dill.

“She’s got a better lawyer than the town does, so she’s back in,” Taylor said. “The selectmen told us to ride out the storm until January.”

Couture said the selectmen told the fire association members that because the association will be able to elect a new chief in January.

McLaughlin said he was told by the selectmen on May 30 that he would no longer be the chief. Dill was sworn in on June 4.

Dill said she’s not concerned that some association members don’t think she’s qualified.

“I’ve proven I can drive a truck. I think we’re just going to move forward,” she said. “That’s water under the bridge.”

Town officials have refused to disclose terms of Dill’s February settlement.

The town’s attorney, Jonathan Brogan, of the firm Norman, Hanson & DeTroy, has 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.

The Kennebec Journal sent an additional public records request to Brogan on Monday for the documentation of Dill’s training.

Paul Koenig — 621-5663
[email protected]

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