G’town gives new chief short tenure

GERMANTOWN—At a special meeting on January 20, the Board of Fire Commissioners for the Germantown Fire District voted to approve the election of Michael Lawson as a fire company chief on a month-to-month basis.

On January 5, the five-member board had refused, with one unnamed abstention, to approve Mr. Lawson’s election. The commissioners did not say why, but after a 50-minute executive session, Roy Brown, who chairs the board, said the board would meet with its attorney and then make a statement.

At the start of the January 20 meeting, Commissioner Hugh McLean gave an envelope to Mr. Brown. Mr. McLean then left the room and did not attend the meeting. Observers familiar with the fire company say that Mr. McLean, who served as a commissioner for almost 20 years including several years as chairman, has resigned.

Mr. Brown said Tuesday that the commissioners have not yet opened Mr. McLean’s envelope. They had planned to do so, Mr. Brown said, at their regular meeting on Monday, but that meeting was cancelled due to bad weather. The plan is to open the envelope at the next regular meeting, Monday, February 23 at 7 p.m. in the firehouse on Main Street.

Mr. McLean has not made a public statement other than whatever is in his letter. The Columbia Paper was unable to reach him for comment this week.

In the meantime, the other commissioners—Mr. Brown, Christopher Mullins, Patrick Ebling and Denis Crawford—met January 20 in an hour-long executive session with their attorney, Daniel Tuczinski. Then they announced the month-to-month approval of Mr. Lawson.

Reached Tuesday at his new Iron Horse Cigar Depot in Hudson, Mr. Brown said he had no comment on the meeting or the decision.

“I’m glad we have a chief,” said George Sharpe, a life member of Germantown Hose Company No. 1, the district’s only fire company. “The chiefs are the first at a scene—they size it up,” said Mr. Sharpe, speaking Tuesday from South Carolina, where he was vacationing. “To be down one chief is detrimental to the company.”

Michael Mortenson, a fire company member and town councilman, agreed, saying by phone Tuesday as he was plowing in Hyde Park, “It’s good to have a full complement of chiefs.” But he added, “I don’t understand the month-to-month part,” noting, “They haven’t said what their reasons were for not approving his election, so I’m glad Mike’s reinstated as chief.”

At the fire company’s meeting on January 6, the two-dozen people present voted to form a committee to review the company’s bylaws and seek their own legal counsel on the Lawson matter.

Mr. Sharpe, a member of that committee, said the group had met and assigned themselves tasks. He referred a reporter to committee member Stefania Maruniak, an active company member and wife of Second Assistant Chief James Maruniak. “None of the committee members will be making a comment at this time,” Ms. Maruniak said Tuesday.

The other committee member is Daniel Sutera. Company president and former commissioner Dale Hinkein sat in on the committee’s meeting, but he had no comment. “It’s still ongoing,” he said of the situation. “There’s still stuff going on behind the scenes, so there’s nothing to comment on.”

The fire company meets next on Tuesday, February 3 at 7 p.m. in the firehouse on Main Street.

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