An arbitrator has ordered the City of Holyoke to reinstate firefighter Chad Cunningham to his former rank after discrediting the city’s claims of misconduct regarding a fatal fire on January 1, 2017.
American Arbitration Association arbitrator Mary Ellen Shea found that Lt. Cunningham’s actions on the day of the fire were appropriate, professional, and consistent with fire department policy. Shea cited the Holyoke Board of Fire Commissioners failure to conduct a non-partial investigation and contradictions in their decision to suspend and demote Cunningham.
The arbitrator also found that the Commission’s decision was motivated by anti-union sentiment. Cunningham was President of the Holyoke Firefighters Union and after the fire was outspoken in his criticism of the city in regard to reducing the department’s resources.
In addition to rescinding and expunging Cunningham’s suspension and demotion, the city was ordered to restore him to the Lieutenant’s position and pay back all lost wages and benefits during his suspension.
Holyoke City Solicitor Paul Payer sent this statement: “The City recently received the arbitrator’s decision and is reviewing the matter.”