Way back in 2007, somebody wrote this rather comprehensive breakdown on the activities of Derry, NH, Fire Chief George Klauber and the negative impact he has had on the town, it's councilors, and citizenry and emailed it to NH Insider.
Derry once operated a fire department where everybody was welcome. It was a place where the firefighters were professionals, but understood their small town roots.
Interestingly, at the same time that Klauber was involved in his Derry hiring process, the State of CT was calling for a major management and financial study of the very fire department he was leaving (http://www.opm.state.ct.us/RFP/WtbyFire.HTM).
Klauber, the former chief of the Waterbury, CT, fire department, and one of the highest paid chiefs in NH, with a salary said to approach $115,000, with benefits totaling another 30 cents on the dollar, has succeeded in disrupting the fire department’s relationship with the town.
Then Derry was faced withthe Chief’s vain attempt to build a new 2.7 million dollar fire station, the Town’s fifth, which would’ve included another large increase in manpower and equipment.
But questions immediately arose. Why did Derry need a fifth station in a town of 34 sq.miles? Why was this additional station needed when both fire and EMS calls were both decreasing in number?
Two citizens even wrote a report to the council based on Klauber’s own statistics and those from the NFPA to illustrate that the construction of the station was unwarranted, citing concerns for a “proactive” approach, featuring inspections and community outreach, and dismissing the Chief’s increasingly expensive “reactive” response. A report which Council Chair Chirichiello failed to read into the minutes.
Luckily for the taxpayers, Councilor Dowling took a vacation, Chairman Chirichiello crafted a poorly conceived motion, one councilor changed his mind, Councilor Bulkley folded after one more expensive turn to the town’s attorney (indecision which has cost Derry a quarter of a million dollars lawyer’s fees this past year), and the taxpayers were saved another quick 2.7 million.
The first overt inklings of a real change in management became known in September, when a local woman was locked out of her house at 2:45am with her dogs. When she queried the dispatcher for a hand, she was advised to “call a locksmith,” on the chilly night involved. Questions immediately arose about the exact nature of the services the fire department does provide for its 10 million dollar budget.
Then came the Chief’s request for his firefighters to keep in shape at the Workout Club on Manchester Avenue while on duty, without requiring every member to participate, which was promptly approved by the town council’s majority. These expensive workouts can be completed at every station at little or no additional cost, under the supervision of department officers, just as they are all over the country.
Concerns also arose about fire trucks being used to get groceries.
Fire trucks are observed unattended at Dunkin’ Donuts while their crews lounge inside.
Further reports arose about firefighters completing local errands while on duty and in full uniform.
Then, in early October, Councilor Janet Fairbanks was advised by a disturbed constituent that the expensive ladder truck was used as some sort of a prop at a local wedding and made inquiries about its use. The truck was set up at the Congregational Church for a member’s nuptials and was said to be out of service for a quarter hour or so, according to Chief Klauber, though others say it was raising and lowering folks for photos far longer.
While the townspeople raised the specter of responding to fire calls without the services of their expensive hook and ladder, and concerns increased over the liability of civilians riding on it, Klauber agreed to reimburse the Town some $28.00 for its use, having decided that it was off duty for a quarter hour.
In mid-October, Chief Klauber, after a meeting with Town administrator Russ Marcoux concerning the incident, immediately sent a memo to the FD ordering them to cancel all community outreach, further disturbing Marcoux, who then had to order Klauber to compose another memo rescinding his previous order.
Almost immediately, members of the DFD began posting highly disturbing information about Councilor Fairbanks on the firehouse.com website (“Councilor takes heat” Derry News, December 1, 2006). As aresult, Councilor Fairbanks received numerous uncomplimentary e-mails from as far away as Colorado, all designed to intimidate her, with many including unpleasant personal information known only by those in Derry.
Interestingly, Councilor Craig Bulkley (who belongs to the same Rotary Club as the Chief (http://www.derryvillagerotary.org/ClubMembers.cfm), and who recently welcomed Chief Klauber as a fellow director at the Derry Boys and Girls Club (http://www.derrybgclub.org/main_sublinks.asp?sid=53&id=4), in a public letter to the Derry News (“Stop looking for conspiracies,” December 20, 2006), attempted to counter the town wide talk about the Chief’s damaging memo and a previous letter to the editor which mentioned its existence, by stating, “Chief Klauber never canceled community outreach efforts…,” and added, “That is just one of the rumors floated by those who want to make you and others believe the worst.”
A second letter (“Trying to set the record straight,” Derry News, December 22, 2006) appeared, which explained that the previous author had received both memos courtesy of an RSA 91A request, that, yes, the disturbing memo did exist, and criticized the Councilor for not “performing due diligence” before he included the wild attributory remarks contained in his reply.
The taxpayers also learned that Klauber was no longer speaking to Councilors Fairbanks and Kevin Coyle on what he claims is the advice of an attorney. As a result, the town’s fire chief now refuses to have any regular business dealings with one councilor who represents the town at large, and with another who represents the population of its downtown area, merely because they questioned the activities of his department –by doing their jobs.
News of the Turning Point Program’s Derry involvement then appeared (http://www.turningpointprogram.org/). The now defunct public health advocacy group, once funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Trust, which exerted pressure on local communities to hire public health officials, featured evidence of the fire chief’s successful advocacy for the addition of a public health official to Derry government, an expensive and permanent cost, initially funded with rapidly disappearing federal dollars, in its newsletter (http://220.127.116.11/search?q=cache:f0Mg6PC4iecJ:www.turningpointprogram.org/Pages/transformations/transformations_summer_2005.pdf+george+klauber+nh&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=4). The costs for the new employee can be viewed in the Town Council’s Adopted Budget for FY2007.
“Public health is to EMS what fire prevention is to fire. When I first started here, I couldn’t believe that we didn’t have a health department,” Chief Klauber exclaimed in a glowing reference to Turning Point’s successful Derry advocacy. And now the Town’s new public health officer, who makes almost 60k a year, reports directly to the embattled chief.
Now, with the selection of John Moody as interim Town Administrator (granted full executive power at the time of his hiring by the Council majority on January 2nd ), who is a fellow member of the Derry Village Rotary with Chief Klauber (http://www.derryvillagerotary.org/ClubMembers.cfm), additional attention is being focused on Moody’s desire and ability to manage the public comportment of the chief.
Today, across the Town, the members of the DFD have stopped speaking to longtime friends and acquaintances as the animosity towards anyone who dares question fire department expenditures, policy changes, and the behavior of their chief, grows in intensity
With the Derry taxpayers learning that their town is flat broke, with a $350,000 dollar problem right off the top, with more bad news onthe way, after weathering their largest tax increase in years, with a Council 2007 goal of maintaining the current number of the increasingly expensive Town personnel( Town of Derry: Town Council and management Goals 2007; Personnel Count: Maintain current status), Chief Klauber’s increasingly extravagant tenure, his management style, and his advocacy for big government are becoming hot topics at the fire stations, barbershops, tattoo joints, beer halls, donut parlors, fry houses, and the diners dotting Derry.
By August, 2014, little has changed. Klauber remains the Fire Chief. Unfortunately something has been unearthed, however, something which Fire Chief George Klauber wished had been left lying doggo, out of sight, lost in the mists of normal radio chatter, left on the hard drives, and covered with his own brand of rapid fire bluster and riposte.
In a letter to the editor, which appeared in the Nutfield News on May 1st, 2014, ( "System Change" http://nutpub.net/pdf_archive/2014_nutfield_news/NN-2014-0501.pdf ) Derry citizen and taxpayer, John Burtis, demonstrated with data supplied by the town, from an RSA 91a he filed, that large amounts of critical time seem to be lost when Concord receives every 911 call meant for Derry, which must be handed off to Derry Fire which operates a 24/7, 365 day a year dispatch center. His letter also provided information which also indicated that Derry also loses time in dispatching mutual aid units on major fires. Rather than call for mutual aid at the time a call for a burning building is received, Klauber apparently has his department verify that a structure is in flames before asking for help instead of radioing and telephoning for help like every responsible department responding to fire calls in rural areas do. The data was a specific, minute by minute, breakdown of communications, and it was disturbing when one considers that it was a fatal fire on that night in question, at Island Pond Road and Bartlett Road, that the data described.
But these facts are nothing new to the town because Burtis has spoken in front of the council time after time asking for these issues to be examined or deaths would ensue. Now a man has died. A death which has caused little or no concern among the powers that be or with the fire chief. Nor has the repeated revelations of time lost on the starting of mutual aid units.
Chief Klauber, as is well known, is also an employee of MRI, Wally Stickney's growing group, which seems to have penetrated New England like an invasive Asian Kudzu vine, and has insured, in many cases, that individuals, with extremely interesting records, are hired over and over again for the same job in different New England towns, like Derry's own Carol Granfield for instance. MRI even has a personnel unit, which, at least in Derry's case, brought Gary Stenhouse, whose primary contractual element had to do with the enormous amounts of the severance he was to receive if he was bought out early. Interestingly, a bit of background found that his yacht was named 'Severance'. And he hired friends and relatives, all smiled upon by a friendly council. In the end, the high points of his tenure amounted to his arrest of the "Hot Dog Man," who would later prevail in court, his supposed rental of a home he never occupied to fulfill the tenets of his contract reed thin as it was, and his claim to have resigned as Rochester's Police Commissioner, which he hadn't, then claimed to have. Later, it also brought us John Anderson, but that is another story left for someone else, more attuned to the vagaries of the case, tell. Perhaps Neill Weatherbee or Duff Parker.
But I digress, we must remember that Fire Chief Klauber, while working as an employee of MRI, has written numerous reports for them in his capacity as a paid consultant, out for hire to other towns and municipalities. Klauber produced a lengthy opinion which resulted in the firing of the Gloucester, MA, Fire Chief over his failure to properly use firefighting resources during a major blaze. Could the same criteria be used to judge Chief Klauber? Chief Klauber has assembled analyses for other municipalities as a paid employee of MRI, like Andover, MA, where he explained, in a lengthy outline which featured photographs with paragraphs on the back, how to better their fire and ambulance service. Could someone with a more formidable CV formulate ways to improve Derry's Fire and EMS Services? It happens all the time, all over the United States. Is Fire CHief Klauber the be all and end all? Probably not.
Recently, Burtis apparently, according to those in the local TV business, approached Kevin Coyle and Janet Fairbanks about appearing on their late Friday evening show on Community TV to dissect the data supplied on the DFD disc. However, it seems that Fairbanks and Coyle refused Burtis a show without first allowing the famous Derry Fire Chief George Klauber a chance to defend himself in the public eye. However. everyone was rather surprised to learn that Chief Klauber absolutely refused to appear opposite Burtis on a televised show, on any kind of a TV show. He is said to have stated that he would never appear on TV with Burtis to discuss anything.
So, a lot of folks are wondering why Fire Chief Klauber (whose latest MRI curriculum vitae lists him as a thirty some year firefighting professional and the former big city Fire Chief of Waterbury, CT) won't show up and destroy Burtis who simply drove a couple of pumpers at two or three fire stations in some podunk county fire department in upstate New York, where the about the only fires they have there seem to be big barns, large houses, warehouses, gas explosions, oil storage tanks, wrecks on the numerous interstates, triple deckers afire in the suburbs, high-rise fires in the cities, blocks of stores going up, malls on fire, supermarkets burning, paper box facilities, grain elevator infernos, plane crashes, and large springtime brush fires? (See Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin: Broome Country Fires Changed Outlook http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140617/NEWS01/306170001/Serialization-Fires-changed-outlook-Village-Port-Dickinson
) A firefighter in a county named Broome of all places where there are only 39 fire stations? How come he won't even appear to set the record straight? Maybe there are some important and unknown reasons why so much time is lost on every call and he might be able to put the whole shebang to bed. Maybe he can tell everybody why, when you call the Derry Fire Dispatch Center the recording there tells you to hang up, Dial 911, which sends you to Concord, which sends you back to the same place you just left, in Derry, with only a loss of a few minutes and a double or a tripling in the size of the fire you're trying to report?
Or why, in layman's terms, when a late night fire in your home forces you, your family, and your pets outside and you finally get through all the idiocy, explanations, addresses, interruptions, static, and Concord, and finally get back to Derry, and holler that your goddam house is on fire that you then must wait for a fire car to drive there, see the flames and smoke, and then the guy in the red or white SUV has to radio back to say that it's a real fire and to start the mutual aid because by now the whole place is roaring and you can't believe that the dispatcher on the other end didn't believe that at 2:40 am you'd rush outside, your wife screaming bloody murder in your other ear, dogs barking up a storm, two car horns blatting in the garage by themselves for background noise, that the dud didn't extend you the common courtesy of believing you had a real fire of some growing sort and had to send a man to make sure!!
But, Burtis raised another point. Why does Klauber insist on only purchasing big city pumpers for the rural areas of Derry? Burtis says, because he served in rural areas of the county that tanker/pumpers are key because they carry a lot more water than the conventional pumpers which Klauber buys exclusively. And because they carry more water they provide more firefighter safety and aid in faster safer entry, too. No, Derry has only one tanker, Burtis insists, but why does Klauber place it at the only station in the hydrant district? After all, it took that tanker 12 minutes to reach the scene of the Island Pond Road fatal fire from the Central Station. Twelve minutes and it left as soon as the alarm was received. Why won't Fire Chief George Klauber discuss this item, publicly, either? Maybe, again, there are reasons why a big city pumper carrying less water than a tanker/pumper is better in the Chief's eye's. But don't the people who lose their homes and now the life of a relative, deserve to know why?
What is going on Derry? Why won't Klauber appear? The disgraced former Town Administrator John Anderson, whose trial for lewd behavior has been continued more times than Jeanne Shaheen has appeared at out of state fundraisers or Maggie Hassan has been gigged for FEC violations, went so far as to banish Klauber from his posh suite of offices in the town hall on Manning Street in Derry to a more Spartan lay out at the Central Fire Station on the traffic circle, must have surmised something. Yet here is Klauber, 11 years into an at will term, still living the high life. But now his refusal to debate what amounts to his bread and butter, his very own Standard Operating Procedures. Again it makes no sense. And he continues to be, despite his many shortcomings and tomfoolery, his petty tantrums and his wandering through unoccupied fire stations while they're vacated during fire calls, one of the highest paid fire chiefs in New England.
Klauber (from MRI) is either the genius wunderkind that Carol Granfield (from MRI) who hired him said he was, or, possibly, he's not. And maybe Burtis ( who, he claims, has nothing to do with MRI and has never, to his knowledge, he also claims, met Wally Stickney) is just an outré simpleton from the backwoods of upstate New York or he's not so dumb. Who can say.