Broadley: ‘Department needs to heal’

O.B.’s second in command retires, while town leaders seek to ease fears of community about fire department upheaval.

Deputy Chief Shawn Broadley, center, is retiring from the Oak Bluffs Fire Department, but not before he made some eye-opening revelations in his letter to selectmen.

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.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Wait his letter was “obtained”… does this imply that the mv times got his letter from an outside source? It wasn’t even Mr. Broadley himself that gave permission to publish his letter… In fact how could one even know that this is his letter?

      • AMAZING, it’s been verified as his legitimate letter, so one question of mine has been answered, that leaves the next one… DID HE GIVE YOU PERMISSION? And if he didn’t then where is the basic human decency and who shared it with the times?

  2. Wow, the selectman gave this letter to the paper? They should have tried to hide it. There are some pretty big eye opening infractions-unaccounted narcotics. Why wasn’t that paramedic fired? The selectman have many things they need to fix.

  3. Coin-Toss here, folks. Shawn is a nice guy and very dedicated. At the same time, there’s a lot to be said for sitting on a letter for a few days(or weeks) and getting an outside person to look it over before sending it in- sounds like Shawn through a pie in his own face with this one.

    • Sean’s letter was extremely well written in its entirety. He made a lot of really good points, points that really needed to be made, especially to the public. I suggest reading the letter in full before you make assumptions, as the times has chopped up a lot of what was written and put their own spin on it. “Rambling letter” more like a passionate letter with a lot that needed to be said from a individual who has given so much of his life to the town and department. The only pie being thrown in anyones face, is that of the selectmen for allowing this mess to be happen. It’s very disappointing when someone sacrifices so much of their life to helping people, a job that carries a lot of emotion with it, and people spin it this way. I hope he gave permission for this to be released to the newspapers. Unfortunate.

      • I’m going to do that rarest of thing- be open minded enough to consider another’s point of view. Don’t get used to it- it’s rare. I didn’t read the letter in its entirety so I’m basing the “Pie In The Face” comment based on the Times’ selection of quotes and their slant on it. Perhaps a more thorough reading in its entirety would yield a different assessment. We have to remember that at the end of the day, skills matter and if the department is losing skilled and committed people, that’s a problem. The Chief made some abysmal personal decisions regarding sexual relations with a subordinate, and in this day and age, that is a one-way ticket out. That said, at 3am, when your house is on fire or you need EMT service, you’re not going to demand an ethical purity test before getting rescued.

        • Thank you for being open minded, it isn’t something that frequents this comment section. Lots of talent, dedication and years of service between the Chief and Deputy. I hope the best for the department.

  4. I like the efforts of the chairmen to ensure that the department is in “good shape”, with now the Chief and the Deputy, both with years of experience, talent and dedication have decided or were manipulated and forced to leave. Great job listening to the complainers/ ex employees and the “higher power” with nothing better to do. Who think they can do everything better, when the truth of their actions are reflected above. Maybe this sheds some light on the incompetence of some of those employees who formerly worked for the department and the amount of chances that were given to them through the disciplinary process, that shouldn’t have been. Shows that the command staff tried their hardest to work WITH employees instead of this hostile environment explained and created by them in the papers. Happy the truth of this is starting to slowly leak out to the public. The Deputy and Chief will be greatly missed. The town should be more concerned for the situation their selectmen have put them in by not thinking any of this through.

    • Your moral compass is askew. At it’s foundation the chief had an affair, took alleged retaliatory actions after it ended, and then lied about it to the board. CEOs across the nation are being fired across the nation on a near weekly basis for similar behaviors, regardless of their company performance or leadership skills. Bad judgment is bad judgment. John caused his own problems and left the selectmen to clean everything up.

      • I do believe that your moral compass is askew, for believing everything you read in the newspaper. None of what was alleged in any of the complaints against John retaliating was proven be true they were all allegations, you should keep that in mind. Perhaps the truth will reveal itself sometime soon hopefully.

  5. Once he submitted it his resignation letter became a public record. I’m amazed that a mindset exists that still wants to hide things. Please let a new era begin.

  6. I believe this letter becomes public record as soon as it is submitted to the selectmen.

    This is why most resignation letters are cut and dry and fairly bland, it’s because any member of the public can read it or a newspaper can publish it if they choose.

    The town could deny access to the letter but could still be compelled to release it a freedom of information request.

    Any letter or email or even text message send to selectmen are held to the same standard.

  7. ‘Was it something I said(yup) or something I did(that too)
    Did the words not come out right(you could say that)
    Though I tried not to hurt you
    Though I tried(you sure tried our patience)
    But I guess that’s why they say
    Every rose has its thorn
    Just like every fire has its hose
    Just like every fireman sings his sad, sad song
    Every rose has its thorn
    Yeah it does…’

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