Conn. town fire commission fires finance director over controversial federal PPP loan

Officials say the fired finance director failed to return a $120,000 loan that the fire district did not need


Jesse Leavenworth
Hartford Courant

BLOOMFIELD, Conn. — Bloomfield’s Blue Hills Fire Commission fired the agency’s paid finance director after he failed to return a federal loan that officials have said the fire district did not need.

Errol Bartley was fired for breach of his duties, including failure to comply with the commission’s decision in March to return a $120,000 Payroll Protection Plan loan, commission member Michelle Adams said Wednesday.

The Blue Hills Fire Commission has fired a finance director for failing to return a $120,000 Payroll Protection Plan loan that officials say the fire district didn't need.
The Blue Hills Fire Commission has fired a finance director for failing to return a $120,000 Payroll Protection Plan loan that officials say the fire district didn't need. (Photo/Blue Hills Fire Department)

Adams and commission Chair Sheray McDonald voted Monday to terminate Bartley, whose compensation had exceeded $38,000 a year, Adams said. Bartley could not be reached Wednesday. Neither he nor commission member Ariel Marzouca Jaunai attended the meeting, Adams said.

The federal money was used to give staff and career firefighters an extra week’s pay and stipends to volunteer firefighters, Marzouca Jaunai has said, though the district had more than $800,000 available for payroll at the time the loan application was made.

The decision by a public entity, which may not have been eligible to apply for funding under a federal program designed to help private businesses and nonprofits devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, raised a number of questions — and even accusations of theft during a public meeting last year.

“We didn’t need it and it was taken under questionable circumstances,” Adams has said.

Adams and commission chairwoman Sheray McDowell had voted to return the money instead of filing for forgiveness of the loan from Wells Fargo Bank, which administered the Blue Hills Fire District loan, and the U.S. Small Business Administration, which is guaranteeing loans.

Marzouca Jaunai, whose husband, Vincent, is a paid member of the Blue Hills Fire Department and received more than $1,400 as a result of the loan, abstained. She was chairwoman when the decision on disbursing the funds was made.

It is unclear who authorized Bartley to go forward with the application. Two former fire district commissioners have said they never explicitly authorized Bartley to file an application.

Bartley said at a commission meeting that he applied for the loan due to concerns that property tax payments would be deferred for up to three months beginning in May, even though there was more than enough money in the bank to cover payroll.

Marzouca Jaunai has defended Bartley’s actions, saying that “he took it upon himself to apply for the PPP funds as he was thinking in the best interest of the district just like other districts who have applied and received these funds.”

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