Complaint filed against Phillipston Fire Captain

  • In this March 2018 file photo, Phillipston Fire Capt. John Seamon Jr., left, assists Fire Chief Richard Stevens with a demonstration of the Lucas 3 CPR device donated to the town by the Community Foundation of North Central Mass. A formal complaint has been filed against Seamon, and five members of the department have recently resigned. File/Deborrah Porter

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 1/29/2019 1:13:11 PM
Modified: 1/29/2019 1:13:11 PM

PHILLIPSTON — At least six people have resigned from the Phillipston Fire Department in recent weeks due to what they believe has been a lack of response to complaints by town officials to alleged actions by the department’s captain. Those who have tendered their resignation have accused Capt. John Seamon Jr. of making inappropriate comments to a new female hire at the department. Another claimed Seamon refused to provide training to him because he is African-American.

While five letters of resignation citing allegedly inappropriate behavior by Seamon were submitted, only one formal complaint against the captain has been filed, according to the town’s Chief Administrative Officer Kevin Flynn.

That complaint was filed late last year by department member Amanda Griffith, who claimed that Seamon had made “an inappropriate and salacious comment … about a newly-hired firefighter/EMT.”

“My decision to bring this to the attention of the town was my attempt at stopping the captain’s unprofessional and inappropriate behavior,” wrote Griffith in her letter of resignation.

According to Flynn, selectmen held a disciplinary hearing in executive session. The administrator said Seamon was the only party to the complaint to appear at the hearing.

“Because it’s a personnel matter, I can’t discuss specifics,” Flynn said. “All I can say is that the board held a hearing and took what it deemed to be appropriate action.”

Seamon told the Athol Daily News that he is unable to discuss the matter “since it’s an ongoing issue for the town.”

Griffith was supported in her complaint by Deputy Fire Chief Larry Bankowski, Lt. Tyler Mason, firefighter/EMT Anthony Jones and Administrative Assistant Kristen Stanley. All five have since resigned from the department.

In his letter to selectmen, Mason — who had accompanied Griffith to town hall — said, “The conduct of Capt. Seamon, by publicly ridiculing this new member, has not only unfairly and inaccurately portrayed her character to other members, it has also created a very unsafe work environment…(His) conduct has prevented any cohesion among the members and a very unsafe situation for those tasked with saving lives.”

Mason also called for the resignation of Flynn and Selectman Kim Pratt, who Mason said was present when Griffith brought her concerns to the administrator.

In her resignation, Stanley said that the failure of town officials to adequately deal with complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment “have left myself and the other female members (of the department) at serious risk.” She also noted in her letter that, after voicing concerns about the atmosphere at the department, she was summoned to a disciplinary hearing. Rather than attending a hearing she felt was uncalled for, Stanley resigned.

The newly-hired firefighter/EMT who was allegedly the target of Seamon’s comments has also resigned.

Flynn said he wanted to assure residents the town continues to have adequate cover age for responding to any emergency. He added the town has advertised the vacancies in the department in hopes of attracting qualified applicants.

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