O.B. selectmen hold ‘emergency’ meeting with firefighters

No longer fire chief, Rose remains town plumber via contract.

From left, Chief John Rose, Deputy Chief Shawn Broadley, and Assistant Chief Manny Rose, shown here at a 2018 selectmen's meeting. John Rose is out, while Broadley and Manny Rose are "stepping up." -File photo

Updated Feb. 5

Just 24 hours after announcing the resignation of Fire Chief John Rose, Oak Bluffs selectmen held a surprise meeting Saturday afternoon to talk about the department’s future with fire station command staff.

A meeting notice was stamped by the town clerk’s office at 3:45 pm Friday. The notice was subsequently affixed to the front door of town hall, selectmen’s office administrator Alice Butler said. There was no posting online, she said. Asked about the content of the meeting, town administrator Robert Whritenour referred questions to the board of selectmen. 

Rose recently bowed out from his position as fire chief amid an FBI probe and settlement of a sexual harassment claim by a former fire department employee. 

Town leaders won’t specify whether Rose, who was earning $131,736, is still working. Their statement issued Friday says he will retire effective April 30. Selectmen chairman Brian Packish said Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Broadley and Assistant Fire Chief Manuel (“Manny”) Rose are “stepping up,” but referred to the statement for any other details on the agreement.

In an email Rose sent to staff members Friday, he indicates he’s no longer working. “It is with conflicted emotions that I officially announce to you my retirement from the position as chief and as a paramedic for the town of Oak Bluffs,” he wrote. “I want to start by apologizing for the impersonal nature of this email informing you all of my departure. I wish that I could have addressed the department in person, however each time I tried to get through what I wanted to say, I found myself too emotional.”

Packish said Saturday’s meeting, which was meant to “reset a conversation” with fire and EMS personnel following a leadership loss, “went fairly well.” Between 35 and 40 people attended the meeting, he said. 

“We’re not going to be taking any steps to move forward without their input,” he said. 

Packish did not elaborate on the concerns expressed by fire personnel, but characterized the meeting overall as “positive” in the wake of an “unfortunate” event. He said Rose, who was promoted to chief in 2014, was an “extremely capable paramedic” and an “extremely capable firefighter,” and the loss of his talent leaves a big gap at the department. 

In his email, Rose thanked his co-workers. “It has been a pleasure working alongside all of you over the span of my career, from when I first started out as a volunteer firefighter in my teens, to being the captain of Engine 4, becoming an EMT/paramedic, captain of the ambulance, assistant chief, and eventually the chief of the department,” Rose wrote. “For those of you who know me personally, you know that I put my blood, sweat, tears, heart, and soul into my job.”

Rose also touched on the difficulty of being a first responder. “The nature of our jobs can be difficult, as many of us have risked our own lives to help others, and have seen our fair share of lives lost,” he wrote. “The camaraderie between all of you and the things we have accomplished as a department is something I am incredibly proud to have been a part of.”

Asked if the board has a replacement in mind for Rose, Packish said, “Not at this particular point in time.” Rose “expressed a willingness to assist in the transition however he can,” Packish said.

He said as much in his email to staff. “My door is always open to any of you,” Rose wrote. “Don’t hesitate to call or reach out if you happen to need anything.”

The speed with which Saturday’s meeting took place was necessary to address the fire department’s needs and concerns after the chief’s resignation, Packish said. The designation emergency was “the only way we can legally post in 24 hours,” he said. 

No votes were taken during the meeting, he said. The Times has requested a copy of minutes taken during the session.

Rose and his siblings, in their capacities in the fire station and ambulance service, were previously the subject of a state ethics investigation. At the time, two of Rose’s sisters and his brother worked under the same roof with him. That investigation found Rose violated conflict of interest law; however, no state penalties were imposed, but the town put procedures in place to avoid such conflicts in the fire station going forward.

Asked if concerns about potential conflicts of interest exist at the fire station in light of the fact Rose’s sister and brother still hold officer positions there, “I think we’re always mindful,” Packish said. 

He said Trulayna Rose, a fire EMS lieutenant and Manuel Rose, assistant chief, are “first-class paramedics and firefighters.”

Though he conceded the subject of ethics isn’t likely to die down completely, “it’s been reviewed, and probably will continue to be challenged by certain individuals,” he said. 

Packish said it would be a “mistake” to diminish their contributions to the department by only looking at them via an ethics lens. 

Asked if the medical billing contract for the ambulance service, currently held by Comstar, will be revisited and potentially opened to other bidders, he said that is “100 percent” likely to happen.

“That’s a decision that’s already been made,” he said. He expects Whritenour will have an RFP crafted shortly, if it’s not already finished. 

Rose held town plumbing contract

The position of fire chief hasn’t been Rose’s only Oak Bluffs role, according to former EMS Lt. Rich Michelson. “He was basically the town plumber,” Michelson told The Times. 

Whritenour acknowledged Rose has done paid plumbing work for Oak Bluffs per a contract. 

The Times requested and received a copy of the contract, which shows an agreement was in force from June 1, 2016 to May 31, 2019. Whritenour said that Rose was the only bidder for the contract because it was difficult to find other people who wanted to do the job. In the contract Rose used the business name John Rose Plumbing and Heating. The journeyman rates listed were $110 per hour for weekdays, $150 per hour for nights, weekends, and holidays. The apprentice rates were $90 across the board. The estimated sum total of the combined hourly work between a journeyman and an apprentice was $12,400 per year or $37,200 for three years. This falls below the greater than $50,000 trigger for competitive bidding under Massachusetts procurement law. Among the client references Rose gave in the contract were Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake and Oak Bluffs highway superintendent Richard Combra Jr.

Rose remains the town’s plumber. “This contract has not been formally extended,” Whritenour wrote in an email, “but is in holdover status at the sole discretion of the Town pending re-bid scheduled for February 2020.”

Whritenour went on to write: “It’s been a major concern that we only received one bid and creating more competition is a strong goal of mine. I’m open to any ideas or suggestions for increasing the competition as I prepare to advertise for a new contract.”.

He did not offer much description about the types of plumbing jobs Rose has done for the town except to say some of them were at the harbor. Richard Combra Jr. said Rose does work for his department, most often by sending an assistant named “Chucky” to complete the task.

Packish said, “I have no idea” what’s going on with Rose’s plumbing contract. He said the board hasn’t had conversations on the subject. 

“I think those positions get advertised on a regular basis,” he said. “It’s a very different thing than an employment contract.”

Rose may be headed back into the plumbing business in general, an occupation he had previously. Michelson said he believed Rose has purchased a new utility truck for plumbing. 

A Times reporter passed Rose in a black utility truck on Monday that had a length of PVC pipe extending off the bed. 

Updated with additional contract information.

16 COMMENTS

  1. I’m glad the Times is pushing this. Fire Chief with a contract to be the town plumber. What was this combo deal worth? Isn’t it obvious why no other plumber would bid against this politically charged contract? What a joke. The Town Administrator has down little to deal with nepotism Or town conflicts. Can we flush all of this out Of town in 2020?

  2. Any person with the tiniest shred of intelligence can see what a smear campaign this is. In my opinion they are out to get John, by going after his livelihood after leaving the town. I guess mentioning the contract is relevant? But describing his personal vehicle to the entire island, if I were John I would fear for my safety. The Times should be utterly ashamed of themselves for writing something like that, that could potentially put someone in danger, especially when it is NO ONES BUSINESS. What kind of tabloid are they running? This is a personal attack on John for deciding he was done dealing with the BS and leaving the selectmen to deal with the dumpster fire they caused, an individual on the board is on a war path and I think we all know who that is. The same person who runs to the papers with everything they can to make themselves look good trying time be a hero when they’re the most corrupt and manipulative of all. This is an utter disgrace to politics, journalism and so many more things (in my opinion). Kudos to the Times once again for their excellent source selection?.

    • “NO ONES BUSINESS” you say? Our tax dollars pay for that plumbing contract, correct? Stop playing games. Sunlight is being directed on what had been murky. If Rose wants to collect OB tax dollars we OB taxpayers have the right to know what’s going on.

      • You should actually read what I wrote, once again. I said I understand the contract being a topic of conversation. However the rest of the details seems like a huge invasion of privacy, and they are. If no one bid on the contract was the town supposed to not have a plumber? I’m sure that would make the taxpayers real happy come summertimes when the public restrooms and the harbor and all the other important things, weren’t fixed or turned on for business. Once again smear journalism and spiteful people turning Johns good deed into an evil one, when it reality he was trying to help the town.

  3. Mr. Michelson is like a dog with a dug-up bone. There wasn’t any meat on that thing to begin with, sir, and you’ve been gnawing on it for years. Time for a hobby besides grudge-holding.

    • Troubled has followed Mr. Michelson wherever he has gone, The Airport, The Fire Department and The VTA. Has no one put together that he worked with the husband of the alleged victim in the Fire Department case. Please please please look into this mans background before you give him any credibility, Trouble through and through.

  4. What did John Rose eat for breakfast today? How many times has he taken a penny without leaving a penny? Does he recycle his cans and bottles or just throw them away in the garbage? Does John Rose say God bless you when someone near him sneezes? The public deserves to know his every waking breathing moment, why aren’t you devoting all reporters and resources you have at your disposal to this? We need interns at mv times digging through John’s trash I have a right to know if he’s a mv times or mv gazette subscriber. if you have nothing else in your life besides tearing down this guy you need to take a long look in the mirror and do a complete reevaluation.

    • It seems you’re the only one asking those questions. Others are asking more relevant questions about public tax dollars and how they’re spent. If you care to share the answers you uncover I’m certain one or two people might be interested.

      • Everyone under this umbrella of caring about public tax dollars. Every single piece written even in this one sided story has said that no tax dollars were spent, it’s all been covered by insurance. I pay over 10k in property taxes alone every year in OB, I’m not concerned about the fire Dept. I’m more concerned with roads not being fixed, and shelling out over 100k on the trailers behind the town hall that are only used by vagrants. The thousands upon thousands spent planning a new town hall that nobody wants to vote in favor for. But those stories aren’t juicy enough for you new news so you cling to John Rose in your pathetic attempt to be a SJW in the name of your public tax dollars. Do you even own land in OB?

        • OB Lifer, while true that insurance is paying the settlement,you do understand that your tax dollars actually pay for that insurance right?

          • “Fielding Mellish” I believe every town has this insurance to cover these kinds of things. The taxpayers would pay for the policy regardless, as every Town does. I think the point is being made the 97k did not come directly out of taxpayers pockets. This isn’t the first time the town of OB has used this insurance policy, and I can assume it won’t be the last. The policy may go up slightly, but that is what the policy is for In the first place. I think what the above commenter is trying to say is that there are much more costly things coming out of taxpayers pockets.

        • If I knew what SJW was I could share with you if I was one. I’m not single, I’m not Jewish, and I’m not a woman if that’s what you’re getting at. I own property in OB, other island towns, and off island, too. As Mark Twain said “Buy land, they don’t make it anymore.” That motto has worked for me for over 40 years. And yes, I pay more in OB than your $10k. But maybe other things about you are bigger. And it’s naive to think an insurance company paid $100k to settle a Rose indiscretion without it having future financial consequences to taxpayers. You watch the tax dollars you want to and I’ll watch the tax dollars spent I want to. Maybe between us we’ll have the bases covered.

      • I think “Ob lifer” is trying to call attention to ridiculousness of this article in its entirety. The surplus of details that are irrelevant and a complete invasion of privacy. He purchased a new vehicle, it’s a utility truck, the color of the vehicle, what he was carrying in the back of the vehicle. It deserves a laugh really. How does Rich Michaelson know and what authority does he have to discuss Johns personal purchases and share them with the newspaper? For all he knew John could have been driving his friends truck? New news perhaps you should shine some of that sunlight of yours on the corrupt politics behind closed doors to this entire situation and the utter unprofessionalism of the chairman of the board and the mess he has created.

  5. did you know that cool ranch Doritos, have more of the cool ranch finger lickin good on them because sir Lancelot says “a powdery Dorito is a good Dorito”

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