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Southampton Selectmen to discuss appointing deputy fire chief due to injury of Interim Fire Chief William B. Kaleta

— The Select Board plans to discuss in private the possibility of appointing a deputy fire chief Tuesday after interim Fire Chief William B. Kaleta suffered a broken elbow this week, said Board Chairman Michael Phelan.

Phelan said Kaleta, 59, “took a bad fall” while responding to an ambulance call. “He’s still doing his administrative duties now, but he can’t be active on ambulance or fire calls,” Phelan said Friday.

The fire chief is the only full-time, salaried position in the department. The other firefighters and EMTs are paid by the hour for training and responding to emergency calls.

Phelan said the board plans to go into executive session Tuesday night to discuss “the operation of the department and what his injury means to the department.” He added that the solution may include appointing a deputy fire chief to take on some of the interim chief’s more strenuous duties until he is well.

Since that discussion would include talk of possible candidates and an increase in the appointee’s wages, Phelan said it falls under an exception to the Open Meeting Law that allows boards to meet in private to negotiate with nonunion personnel or to discuss strategy for such negotiations.

The board appointed Kaleta interim chief on June 21, the same day it voted to oust then-Fire Chief Stephen J. Hyde Sr. Kaleta was his deputy chief and an employee of the town’s Highway Department.

Town officials have remained mum on the reasons for Hyde’s dismissal and refused the Gazette’s public records request for the minutes of the executive session when Hyde’s job was discussed, suggesting they were part of an ongoing investigation, possibly including criminal matters.

In his refusal, Town Counsel Joseph S. Fair stated that the town would continue to keep the minutes secret to “avoid premature disclosure of investigatory information prior to trial or other process for resolving matters being investigated” and because they included reference to complaints against “named individuals.”

In earlier interviews with the Gazette, Hyde said he does not know why the Select Board dismissed him nor why they would be investigating him.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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