DARREL FOURNIER has been fire chief in Freeport for more than 30 years.

DARREL FOURNIER has been fire chief in Freeport for more than 30 years.

FREEPORT

Freeport Town Manager Peter Joseph has expanded on reasons for temporarily suspending Fire Chief Darrel Fournier last week, due to what Joseph termed as “a potential conflict of interest” regarding Fournier’s outside, parttime employment with Paul Davis Restoration.

In a Jan. 15 statement, Joseph wrote: “After looking into the matter and obtaining advice from the Town’s Attorney, we believe that there was no direct financial conflict of interest. However, Chief Fournier’s promotion of an outside company could have created the appearance of a conflict of interest to the general public. As a result, Chief Fournier was issued a two-day unpaid suspension. This, combined with his voluntary resignation of the outside employment, leads me to believe that Chief Fournier has taken adequate steps to address the situation and to ensure that this will not be an issue moving forward.”

In a follow-up email to The Times Record, Joseph noted the difference between a conflict of interest and the appearance of a conflict of interest.

A conflict of interest requires a pecuniary — monetary or financial — interest, according to Joseph.

“An appearance of a conflict of interest would be something that appears to be a conflict of interest, regardless of whether there was a pecuniary interest,” he wrote.

Joseph also added that there was no violation of the town’s personnel code.

Freeport’s town ordinance prohibits outside full-time employment “unless due notification is supplied to the appropriate department head or to the town manager,” but does not address part-time employment.

Joseph said the town will be revisiting its conflict policy.

Fournier began extended, unrelated medical leave on Monday.

“I can clarify that it is not related to Paul Davis issue,” said Joseph.

Questions about the relationship between Fournier and the franchise that performs insurance work after fires and other situations were raised after he reportedly recommended the company to the owner of a duplex two days after it had burned on Dec. 20.

Fournier resigned from the company, for which he had worked a couple days a month for six months.

In a previous interview, Fournier denied recommending the work, and noted his role with Paul Davis was limited to interactions with other fire departments. Joseph on Tuesday said he was consulted before Fournier took the position at Paul Davis.

Maine Fire Chief ’s Association President Kenneth A. Brillant confirmed a Portland Press Herald report that the association is investigating whether Fournier violated the board’s ethics. If so, he could be censured or expelled.

The association’s code would forbid members from benefiting financially from an outside employer as a result of being a fire chief.

“Ethically, it’s a very fine line,” Brillant said.

Brillant, who is Brunswick’s fire chief, said the association’s investigation doesn’t impact Fournier’s employment in Freeport.

Fournier serves as secretary for the association.


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