Firefighter fighting to get job back

Milford firefighter Matthew LaVecchia, assistant superintendent of apparatus, was fired from his job in April after his arrest in connection to an alleged bar fight downtown. But according to his attorney, LaVecchia hopes to get his job back.

The Milford Fire Commission held a special meeting April 19, during which the members voted to fire LaVecchia for behavior not befitting a city firefighter. LaVecchia was charged with violating Milford Fire Department General Rules and Regulations with the bar fight arrest, and fire administrators also referenced an arrest in 2010 in making their decision.

LaVecchia is the son of former fire Chief Louis LaVecchia.

Fire Chief Douglas Edo told the commission at the April meeting that based on his investigation, he believed LaVecchia had violated department rules with the February arrest, and noted that this was a repeat offense, which Edo said validated his firing.

Assistant Chief Gary Baker and Assistant Chief Bernie Begley agreed with Edo, minutes state.

LaVecchia was arrested on a warrant Feb. 14 for an incident that allegedly took place Feb. 3 at a Broad Street restaurant. According to a brief police report, “LaVecchia is accused of repeatedly punching another male in the face while in the bathroom of a Broad Street restaurant.”

LaVecchia was charged with assault and breach of peace. Police did not release further details, and the arrest warrant has been sealed as the case continues to work its way through the court system.

The 2010 arrest stemmed from an incident at Lowe’s home improvement store. According to the New Haven Register, LaVecchia received a special form of probation in 2010 for allegedly conspiring with a former Lowe’s checkout clerk to steal merchandise from the store.
The clerk was charged with accepting cash payoffs from customers, including LaVecchia, to not scan merchandise, the New Haven Register reported.
Attorney John Walsh, representing LaVecchia on the current police matter, said the fire department’s investigation into LaVecchia was not thorough or fair, and said he and LaVecchia were disappointed by the decision. He said the termination is now going through the union’s grievance process, and that LaVecchia hopes to get his job back.

“I’m confident we will be successful before the labor board,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the investigation did not come close to justifying LaVecchia’s termination.

Fire Commission meeting minutes say the board referred to the February arrest warrant in making its decision to fire LaVecchia. According to minutes, LaVecchia is also being charged with felony assault in the second degree in connection with that case.

The board also cited a report by Assistant Chief Robert Healey from Aug. 10, 2010, outlining his conclusions that LaVecchia had violated department rules and regulations for the Lowe’s incident, and which stated that another violation of departmental rules could result in his termination.

Local 944 President Jeff Luciano said the fire department union is following protocol in handling LaVecchia’s case.

“According to the language of the collective bargaining agreement between the city of Milford and Local 944, Matthew LaVecchia has rights that pertain to him as a union member,” Luciano said. “Mainly in regards to the grievance process. The local’s stance is that we follow such language to the best of our abilities to protect all members of our union.”

According to minutes from the most recent police commission meeting, May 15, Luciano said the union felt that LaVecchia was wrongfully suspended without pay on April 25, and that he was wrongfully terminated.

Minutes also state that Luciano indicated that no action should have been taken while the criminal case is pending.

LaVecchia’s next court date is July 6. According to the state’s judicial website, the case is “awaiting disposition/referred to adult probation.”