Richard “Moose” Genthner, of Waldoboro, has been terminated as Nobleboro fire chief.
The Nobleboro Select Board voted to terminate Genthner following an executive session to discuss a personnel matter on Wednesday, Nov. 8. The board also suspended Genthner from Nobleboro Fire and Rescue until “legal matters have been handled,” according to Chair Richard Spear.
Genthner declined to comment and directed The Lincoln County News to his attorney, Jed Davis, of Jim Mitchell and Jed Davis, P.A. in Augusta. Davis said that he found the situation to be “somewhat troubling.”
Capt. Aaron Bradbury will act as interim fire chief for the department. He said at the Nov. 8 select board meeting that a plan had been put in place at the most recent Nobleboro Fire and Rescue meeting to make sure the transition from Genthner to Bradbury would go smoothly. Bradbury did not respond to a request to comment.
In a phone interview on Monday, Nov. 13, Spear said fire chiefs in surrounding towns had come forward with complaints about the Nobleboro chief.
Genthner was the subject of an executive session held after the Nobleboro Select Board meeting on Oct. 11. Damariscotta Town Manager Andrew Dorr and Kevin Sutherland, the interim town manager of Newcastle at the time, were both in attendance at the Oct. 11 board meeting, but were not for the executive session.
A letter dated Oct. 18 and signed by Dorr and Sutherland, as well as Waldoboro Town Manager Julie Keizer, was sent to the Nobleboro Select Board, raising concerns regarding recent investigations into “actions, decisions, and communications” made by Genthner. The Lincoln County News obtained the letter through the Freedom of Access Act.
“Until Nobleboro has demonstrated that this investigation is being conducted properly, through the advice of an attorney, we are not willing to present any further details of the safety concerns and harassment claims raised by our fire chiefs,” the letter stated.
Damariscotta Fire Chief John Roberts and Newcastle Fire Chief Casey Stevens declined to comment on the town managers’ letter. Waldoboro Fire Chief Paul Smeltzer did not respond to a request to comment.
Davis sent a letter dated Nov. 7 to the Nobleboro Select Board regarding Genthner’s intent to take legal action if terminated as Nobleboro fire chief.
In the letter, which he provided to The Lincoln County News, Davis said there were two separate investigations into matters involving Genthner, one conducted by the “fire association” and the other conducted by a team hired by the Nobleboro Select Board. Davis did not respond to a request for clarification about which “fire association” the letter referenced.
Spear said the team the select board worked with consisted of Bradbury and Senior Capt. John Hedrick, both of Nobleboro Fire and Rescue.
In their letter, the town managers said their respective departments “have not wavered and do standby to respond to calls in Nobleboro.” However, they expressed “great concern” about the oversight and direction of the Nobleboro fire chief on those calls, which they fear would put the safety of their first responders and Nobleboro residents at risk.
“If Nobleboro is unable to adequately review the actions of its fire chief, we will have no further options than to reconsider the mutual aid agreement that has stood for 40 years,” the town managers said in their letter.
The purpose of the local mutual aid agreement is to provide first responders with easy access to resources or specialties that may be needed in a major fire, disaster or other major emergency or event. The commanding officer of the town requesting assistance is in charge of the entire operation in his town, the agreement stated.
Spear cited the possible lack of support from surrounding towns as one of the reasons Genthner was terminated as fire chief.
“They said they would not abandon Nobleboro, but they were not interested in continuing to offer the town support through the mutual aid agreement,” Spear said.
Davis said his client will seek legal recourse, and that he has not decided what filings there will be. Davis said he will investigate the situation and advise Genthner. In his Nov. 7 letter, he alleged the town seeking to terminate Genthner was the result of “pressure of individuals with a personal ax to grind.”
Davis’ letter specifically named Roberts, Smeltzer, and Stevens. Roberts and Stevens declined to comment on Davis’ letter. Smeltzer did not return a request for comment.
Genthner was elected by the membership of Nobleboro Fire and Rescue and confirmed by the select board into the position of fire chief in January 2020. He was previously a member of Waldoboro Emergency Medical Services and Waldoboro Fire Department before joining the department in Nobleboro in 2016 as a captain.
The Nobleboro Select Board will next meet at the Nobleboro town office at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 21.
(LCN reporters Molly Rains and Elizabeth Walztoni contributed to this article.)
(Editor’s note: John Roberts is the publisher of The Lincoln County News.)