On March 4, 2020

Rutland city settles agreement with former fire chief

By Ed Larson

Rutland City has come to a settlement agreement with former Rutland City Fire Chief James Larsen.

City attorney Matt Bloomer explained that under the chief’s employment agreement, a termination for lack of “efficient service” could occur at the will of the mayor.  Mayor David Allaire utilized that section of the contract to suspend and then terminate Larsen.

Larsen had been under fire due to complaints from the International Association of Firefighters, which represents city firefighters, for alleged bullying and other management lapses.

The initial print media reports stated that Larsen’s severance would have included four months’ salary plus an additional accrual of $38,000 bringing the total payout to $73,000.

The concern was an extra 18 weeks of vacation time the Board of Alderman had approved for Larsen.  That vacation time was compensation for extra duty while the department was short staffed.

Bloomer stated that according to the Memorandum of Understanding, “The vacation payout includes money for the unused portion of the extra 18 weeks of vacation time.”  In addition, a stipulation existed that even if Larsen left employment voluntarily, he would be paid only a prorated portion of the time.  This was contrary to conditions contained in the employment contract that would have required full pay for all unused vacation.

Bloomer indicated that the Board of Aldermen approved the memorandum of understanding to ensure that the former chief wasn’t voluntarily planning to depart and, thus, cash in the full value of the leave time accumulation.

Ultimately City Attorney Bloomer stated “As the mayor is quoted as saying, the additional $16,200 can be thought of as a price to pay to avoid a ‘protracted legal battle.’” Bloomer clearly stated that a lawsuit would have resulted in thousands upon thousands of dollars in legal fees to the city.

Both Bloomer and Mayor Allaire stated the benefit is “having closure on this.”

The funding for Larsen’s payout is within the fire department budget as the chief’s position is being left open until the salary commitment to Larsen is met.  In the interim, Deputy Chief William Lovett is taking on the chief’s responsibilities.

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