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Sparks Fly At Fire Board Meeting

The New Hyde Park Board of Fire Commissioners are fighting a Dec. 6 Nassau County Supreme Court ruling that says Commissioner Michael Dolan, Sr. should be reinstated as a firefighter in the New Hyde Park Fire Department. 


Dolan recently won a lawsuit he brought against the commissioners, challenging his dismissal in February 2013 from the fire department. Dolan Sr. cannot be removed as a commissioner (an elected position) except by voters or legislative action. But the 69-year-old is no longer a volunteer firefighter.


Dolan Sr. and his son, Michael Jr. were arrested on July 15, 2012 for allegedly stealing 65 smoke detectors from the department on June 21, 2012. He and his son were suspended shortly after the arrest.


Criminal charges against the Dolans were dismissed on Oct. 12, 2012 in Nassau County Criminal Court. However, the incident led the department to call an administrative hearing in January 2013. Hearing officer Walter Wagner found Dolan Jr. had no knowledge of the removal of the smoke detectors and the younger Dolan was reinstated. 


However, Wagner did find that Dolan Sr. was in the wrong for his conduct around the smoke detector issues and recommended he be removed from the department. Dolan Sr. declined to comment.


Jeffrey Siler of Mineola-based Siler and Ingber, who was brought in by the district’s insurance company as legal counsel, submitted an appeal after the latest ruling, from the Supreme Court, was filed by Judge James McCormack in last month. Siler did not return calls for comment.


According to fire district legal counsel Joseph Frank, Siler's appeal stays the judicial ruling.


“Since the fire district is a political subdivision of the state, when it files a notice of appeal, the supreme court order is stayed,” Frank said during a recess of a fire district meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 7. “Until the appellate court rules on the appeal, the supreme court judge’s order is stayed.”


The board has six months to “perfect the appeal” according to Frank.


“You file a notice of appeal to protect your right to appeal,” he said. The board still has to decide whether to go forward with the appeal. "That’s all a function of the board members’ meeting with Mr. Siler and him advising them and deciding whether or not to move forward,” Frank said.


Board President Michael Bonura said the commissioners have not met with Siler since he filed the appeal and that they are in a “wait-and-see stance right now.”


“We can continue the appeal or decide not to; At this point, we are not sure what we’re doing," Bonura said. “Until we know our options, we can’t really say what the outcome is going to be.”


Deidre Dolan, daughter of Dolan Sr., was adamant at the meeting last week that there was no automatic stay after a filed appeal and repeatedly asked if her father was reinstated. When Bonura said “no,” she demanded to know why.


“Our well-regarded judicial system has acknowledged what many have known all along...that truth prevails,” she said. Frank interjected, repeating that his office would not be handling the case. “If it were a private citizen or a private entity that filed a notice of appeal, there might be a separate procedure required to attain a stay. But...when a notice of appeal is filed [by a fire district], the supreme court order is automatically stayed.”


“That's not true," Deidre said. “There is no automatic stay with regards to the judge’s order.”


Ms. Dolan grew angry at the meeting when Bonura appeared to shut off her tape recorder, which sat on the board table as he was motioning that the board bar any recording devices from the table. However, tape recorders would still be allowed at meetings.


Bonura said the recorder “made board members uncomfortable.” It is not clear if Bonura shut off the device. Addressing Deidre, Bonura said, “Please, no more outbursts at these meetings. If there continue to be outbursts, you will be asked to leave.”


The discussions between Dolan and the board grew so heated that a Third Precinct police officer was called into the meeting. She was not removed.


“[The tape recorder] has not been a problem until tonight,” Dolan said. “Don’t touch my personal property.”