New fire safety chief is fired

Absenteeism cited after less than 2 weeks on job

By Donovan Slack
Globe Staff / May 16, 2009
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A new safety coordinator hired to improve maintenance of Boston's firetrucks was fired for absenteeism less than two weeks into the job, fire officials said.

George Pelletier, who previously oversaw municipal vehicle maintenance in New Bedford, was selected after a broad search and began work on fleet safety May 4. He was fired Thursday after he called in sick May 8 and failed to show up for work Tuesday and Wednesday.

"We tried to contact him. He did not return our calls; he was effectively MIA for two days," Fire Commissioner Roderick Fraser said.

"I need to have someone in this job that I can trust and depend on. I did not feel he was right for the position."

Pelletier could not be reached for comment. A telephone number listed in public records has been temporarily disconnected.

Pelletier and another civilian, a transportation director, were hired after an outside review found poor maintenance on firetrucks and recommended civilian oversight. Firefighters not licensed as mechanics previously oversaw maintenance.

The review followed a fatal ladder truck crash in January in which officials cited brake failure. Boston Fire Lieutenant Kevin M. Kelley died instantly when the truck he was riding in careered down a hill and crashed into a Mission Hill apartment building.

The Globe reported that the brakes on the truck had not been inspected for nine months, despite the manufacturer's recommendation that they be inspected every three months. The Fire Department had no preventive maintenance program for firetrucks, additional Globe reporting found.

As safety inspector, Pelletier would have been responsible for implementing a regular inspection and preventive maintenance program.

Fire officials said there was no indication of problems during Pelletier's pre-employment screening, which included interviews, reference checks, and a drug test.

Fraser said he is launching a new search to fill the safety inspector post immediately. He said the new transportation director, Shawn Herlihy, started work in April and fire officials are pleased with his work.

Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Donovan Slack can be reached at