Former New Bedford Acting Fire Chief Fired for Allegedly Lying About Work Injuries
NEW BEDFORD — New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell has fired the city's former Acting Fire Chief Paul Coderre, Jr. for allegedly being dishonest about work-related injuries.
Mitchell's office released a statement on Tuesday evening announcing Coderre's immediate termination from the fire department "for dishonesty" in connection with filing for injured-on-duty benefits.
While serving as Acting Fire Chief in 2019, Coderre claimed several work-related injuries, landing him on injury leave in August 2020.
Since then, he has remained out of work receiving full pay, as per state law.
Coderre received $208,574 in benefits while he was on injury leave for 16 months, from August 2020 through the end of 2021, according to the mayor's office.
Investigation and Video Surveillance
The city Personnel Office investigated Coderre's claims in the summer of 2021, resulting in video surveillance showing him performing activities inconsistent with his purported injuries.
These include video footage of Coderre unloading a 176-pound barbecue smoker grill from his pickup truck on his own, without help.
Later that year, Coderre underwent an independent medical examination ordered by the city to determine if he was still eligible for injured-on-duty benefits.
According to the mayor's office, at first the medical examiner accepted Coderre’s account of his injuries, but reassessed the case when presented with the video footage.
The mayor's office cited the examiner as stating that Coderre had been “untruthful” and “putting on an act.”
Coderre could not immediately be reached for comment.
Coderre's Benefits and Pay
In December, Coderre applied for an accidental disability pension from the city retirement board, and has also applied for a superannuation retirement, according to the mayor's statement.
Following his disability retirement request, the city sent the medical examiner's conclusions to the retirement board.
Along with the more than $200,000 he received in injured-on-duty benefits, Coderre was exempt from paying any state or federal income taxes while on injury leave.
Coderre’s annual salary as Acting Fire Chief was around $150,000, the mayor's office stated.
A hearing officer appointed by Mitchell for Coderre's case, Gerard Hayes, held a hearing on Jan. 13 which the acting fire chief and his attorney declined to attend, according to the mayor's office.
Mayor Mitchell on Coderre's Termination
Mitchell condemned Coderre’s actions, stating that he failed to follow the policies of his own department.
“In doing so he betrayed the trust of the firefighters that served under his command, and he took advantage of city taxpayers who paid his injured-on-duty benefits,” the mayor said.
“New Bedford residents expect and deserve a Fire Department whose every member adheres to the highest professional standards, regardless of rank,” he added.
Coderre served as the City’s Deputy Fire Chief from 2011 to 2018.
He was appointed to Acting Fire Chief in December 2018 upon the retirement of the previous fire chief, but resumed the Deputy Chief position when Fire Chief Scott Kruger was appointed earlier this month.
More video footage of Coderre as taken by the city of New Bedford personnel investigation can be found below:
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