RI fire chief resigns after a year
Tiverton Fire Chief Joseph P. Mollo III resigned over management differences with Town Administrator Christopher Cotta
Newport Daily News, R.I.
TIVERTON, R.I. — Fire Chief Joseph P. Mollo III, on the job for just a year, resigned last week due to management style differences with Town Administrator Christopher Cotta.
Mollo tended his letter of resignation last Thursday, which Cotta accepted, and then wrote a letter to Town Council members asking them not to accept it.
Councilwoman Nancy Driggs mentioned the letter during the council's meeting Monday night, saying she did not want to accept his resignation, but was told by Town Solicitor Michael Marcello that it was Cotta who had the authority to accept the resignation and not the council.
"He was saying he didn't understand it," Driggs said of the gist of Mollo's letter, "that his prior job performance six months prior had been fine." Asked if she was surprised by the resignation, she said Tuesday: "There had been conversations so I knew this was going to be asked of him."
Cotta said he and Mollo "had some differences. It got contentious between us and he offered to tender his resignation."
Capt. Bruce Reimels, who was acting chief before Mollo was hired, is again acting chief. Cotta said the council will be asked at its next meeting, June 22, to advertise for a new chief.
Contacted Tuesday morning, Mollo said: "There was a difference of opinion as to the right way to run the fire department." Asked to elaborate he said: "The Town Council was looking for me to reduce the minimum manning on the department that was critically low to begin with and I'm just not the guy to do that. The Tiverton firefighters are an exceptional group of firefighters and they've got their hands full."
Cotta said a provision in the firefighters contract calls for a reduction in minimum manning when average overtime reaches $2,000 a week and Mollo "did not even pull the trigger," he said of it happening on numerous occasions. "The issue is following the contract. The council worked very hard to get that in the contract," Cotta said.
Mollo said there was an instance when overtime was $15 over and another when it was $47 over, and he was not willing to pull a shift supervisor off the road to reduce minimum manning from 7 to 6, leaving two firefighters at each of the town's three fire stations.
Another strike against Mollo was his not having emergency medical technician certification which is required of a fire chief per town charter.
Mollo said he is scheduled to get national certification on June 25 and that his intention to get it earlier was delayed by COVID-19.
Asked if the lack of certification was a factor in Mollo leaving the employ of the town, Cotta said Mollo "made a promise to the council in January that he would have it in six weeks."
A resident of Johnston, Mollo came out of retirement to take the job in Tiverton last June. He had been fire chief in Smithfield for 10 years, retiring in 2012. He had been with the fire service since 1981 and worked his way up the ranks.
Mollo said he doesn't plan to retire but will seek a position in another community.
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