Updated 1:45 pm
The fire department’s second command is stepping down Feb. 17, less than a month after Fire Chief John Rose resigned amid controversy over the town settling a sexual harassment claim, and an ongoing FBI investigation.
Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Broadley, in a rambling retirement letter obtained by The Times, wrote about the toxic environment at the fire department, and his need to step away from it. “Most would start with, ‘It is with a heavy heart that I write this.’ I, however, don’t have a heavy heart. At 12 am Monday, February the 17th, 2020, my time with Oak Bluffs Fire-EMS will come to an end. I will be retiring from my position of deputy fire chief,” Broadley wrote. “Let me be perfectly clear. This has nothing to do with loyalty to John Rose, who obviously was forced to resign from outside pressure, applied by a higher power. Although my decision was made easier, when I heard that the board of [selectmen] had the audacity to ask John to be available behind the scene[s] to answer and consult on any department administrative issue that may arise while they establish a new command staff. I assume most will refer to my retirement as a resignation. However, after nearly 30 years of service to the town of Oak Bluffs and the Island community at large, I [chose] to depart because of my newfound purpose, protecting myself and putting my family and I first for a change. Although I will truly miss the mission of protecting and helping those in need.”
Broadley declined to comment in a text message to The Times.
Selectmen chairman Brian Packish confirmed the letter was received a few days after the selectmen held an emergency meeting with fire department staff, which came 24 hours after Rose’s abrupt resignation. He thanked Broadley for his service, and sought to ease any fears the community might have with the top two fire employees leaving in quick succession.
“It’s a personal choice, and we value the time he’s given us at the department,” Packish said. “We’ve got 100 percent confidence in both departments right now, fire and EMS. If the bell goes off, our town is protected.”
Broadley points out in the letter that he’s not eligible to become the next chief, because the job description requires that the chief be a certified paramedic, which he’s not.
“Having said that, Why would I take the next step or stay in my current role[?] It would only be a matter of time before the bullseye was firmly planted on my back. Why, you ask[?] The first time I held someone accountable for their action or inaction, instant ‘grievance’ let the target softening begin.”
The letter details his frustration and displeasure, which includes bullet points of some of the abuse taken by the department’s leadership — people being mocked for being “fat” or “crazy,” among other things.
“I find it unfortunate that those who have thrown stones, from within their glass house of perfection, never took time to see their reflection in the glass. Some full-time, as well as volunteer EMS staff, and I’d be naive not to think a few firefighters, would lead everyone to believe that command staff needed to change. They wouldn’t be wrong, in reality there was/is a need for correction and redirection. Reality also is, as much as the personnel believed command staff needed to change and do better, they too need to reflect on their need to change,” he wrote. “It was a daily battle, between good and evil or the popular kids vs. the unpopular kids, if you will. Most of the time it was like reliving my adolescent years. More than not, I felt more like a principal at a Jr. high school, or daycare provider.”
The letter also provides a second set of bullet points of things that have happened, from drugs not being handled properly in ambulances to an alleged threat by an undisclosed person to “shoot up the place.”
Packish said the letter reflected things he’s heard in the past. “All those things are indicative of where we are today,” he said. “Nothing in there I hadn’t heard before, and it’s part of conversations we’ve been having over the past couple of years.”
Asked who would be taking over, Packish said those discussions are ongoing with the command staff. John Rose’s brother, Manuel (“Manny”) Rose is the assistant fire chief, and would be next in line.
“We have an amazing trajectory, everything is going in a really great direction,” Packish said. “We’ve got people who have stepped up and assumed new roles … mutual aid is locked in, we’ve started working with a consultant.”
Broadley’s letter ends with a hopeful note for the department. “Bottom line, the department needs to heal and move on in order to be successful and progressive, as that is what’s best for the town and the department members and staff. For them, I truly hope it does. Now is the opportunity for those that have been, towing [sic] the line, slowly and silently undermining the foundation, claiming they have all the answers and can do it better to prove it!” he wrote. “I wish them success.”
Broadley closes by describing himself as “tired and drained” from the past few years. “Although my departure is bittersweet, there are definitely rewards,” he wrote. “My family won’t feel the need to put dinner on a plate ready for me to reheat, after having missed dinner responding to an emergency, or attending yet another meeting, and the nearly every day after work stop at the station to check in and deal with whatever. My son, who now is in college, when he comes home will now hear ‘Yes, I can go fishing this weekend,’ vs. ‘Sorry, but I can’t because I have to be at the station for training,’ or some other reason department-related. No more having to check the calendar before making plans, I am now wide open.”
Updated to include Broadley declining to comment. — Ed.