The former acting fire chief in New Bedford was fired Tuesday for being dishonest about his purported work-related injuries and abusing the department’s work leave policy, city officials said.
New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said he terminated Paul Coderre Jr. after a city investigation yielded surveillance video of Coderre “performing activities inconsistent with his alleged injuries,” including unloading a 176-pound barbecue smoker grill by himself from the back of his pickup truck.
“He betrayed the trust of the firefighters that served under his command and he took advantage of city taxpayers who paid his injured-on-duty benefits,” Mitchell said in a statement. “New Bedford residents expect and deserve a fire department whose every member adheres to the highest professional standards, regardless of rank.”
Coderre was placed on injury leave in August 2020 and received full pay — totaling $208,574 — for the 16 months he was out of work. He was also exempted from paying state or federal income taxes because he was on injury leave, according to the mayor’s office.
Last summer, the city’s personnel office launched an investigation that caught Coderre on video walking in and out of fire department headquarters, stopping at a home improvement store, loading the grill into his truck with another man’s help, then lifting the grill out of the truck and putting it on a dolly.
Another video clip shows Coderre walking around and removing a bag, a propane tank, coolers, and other items from the back of a vehicle and trailer.
“The independent medical examiner initially accepted Coderre’s account of the limitations caused by his alleged injuries,” the mayor’s office said. “However, when later presented with the video evidence captured on multiple days in June and August 2021, the examiner reassessed Coderre’s assertions and the applicable medical record, subsequently concluding that Coderre had been ‘untruthful’ and ‘putting on an act.’”
Earlier this month, Mitchell appointed a hearing officer to determine whether there was cause to discipline Coderre. A hearing was held on Jan. 13, which Coderre and his lawyer declined to attend, according to the mayor’s office. Neither Coderre nor his lawyer could be reached for comment Wednesday.
The hearing officer, Gerard Hayes, found that Coderre’s actions likely had a negative impact on morale in the fire department.
“It would not be a surprise if they lead to very serious disrespect for superior officers by some and attempts at similar dishonest behavior” by others, he wrote in a report. “He engaged in conflict of interest to use his position for personal gain.”
Coderre was the city’s deputy fire chief from 2011 to 2018 and was named acting fire chief in December 2018. His annual salary as acting chief was approximately $150,000, the mayor’s office said.