OXFORD — Former Fire Department lieutenant and selectman candidate Mark Blaquiere was fired because surveillance video showed that he and another firefighter broke into the office and packed up the chief’s personal items, according to town documents obtained Friday. 

Blaquiere has repeatedly denied that he broke into the fire chief’s office last year.

Interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott said in her Dec. 9 letter of termination that Blaquiere was fired for gross insubordination, dereliction of duty and conduct unbecoming of an Oxford employee, and he was ordered to stay out of the Fire Department.

On Tuesday, he told some 50 residents at Meet the Candidates Night that he was not fired for the burglary. However, town documents confirm that he and two other firefighters were involved.

Blaquiere and candidates Dana Dillingham and Ernest “Ed” Knightly are vying for a seat on the Board of Selectmen in the June 13 annual election.

Blaquiere, who works part time as a captain for the Paris Fire Department, could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

His boss, Paris Fire Chief Scott Hunter, who is an Oxford selectman and former Oxford fire chief, was out of town and also not available for comment Friday.

Wayne Jones, who was hired as fire chief in June 2015, announced his resignation on Dec. 6, 2016, after receiving a letter of no-confidence from members of his department.

“We can do the job without him. He’s not our chief,” Blaquiere said at that time.

He said the department would be run by senior members starting with the lieutenant, captain and deputy chief. “We are not taking orders from him anymore. We don’t care if he sits in his office,” Blaquiere said.

Shortly after that, Blaquiere said he was placed on leave while town officials investigated reports of a break-in at the chief’s office in the Public Safety Building on Route 26.

Blaquiere publicly denied any involvement and soon signed on to the Paris Fire Department.

He has steadfastly denied being involved.

“No, I was not fired for breaking into the chief’s office,” Blaquiere said when asked by business owner Bill Penfold at Meet the Candidates Night whether residents could “trust” him because of the allegations.

When Penfold asked him directly whether he was involved, Blaquiere said, “I’m not going to get into that. We’re not getting into personnel issues.”

“How can we trust you?” Penfold asked.

“Then vote for one of these guys,” he said, looking at Dillingham and Knightly.

Letter of termination

According to the termination letter from Lippincott, obtained from an anonymous source, the now former 25-year veteran Oxford firefighter was shown on surveillance camera setting up a step ladder beneath the video surveillance camera outside Jones’ office and tipping the camera sideways and putting it out of focus.

Lippincott wrote that she and Blaquiere watched a video from the surveillance camera after they met to discuss the break-in and that Blaquiere said he was fixing a light and his back was to the camera and it must have caused the camera to become out of focus.

“The images captured by the video were clear when you walk up to it, but it is turned at a different angle and blurry after you leave, indicating that your actions changed the angle and focus of the camera,” Lippincott wrote. “You also stated that you couldn’t even see the chief’s office from the video and that the video camera was already broken … “

Lippincott said Jones told her there were no cameras that needed fixing before he left for vacation.

“The video surveillance also shows you watching as another officer used the door spreader tool to open the chief’s office door,” Lippincott wrote to Blaquiere. The video, she said, shows Blaquiere following the other officer through the fire bay door and then Blaquiere following that officer into the hallway outside the chief’s office and watching that officer use a door spreader to open the chief’s office.

Asked if Blaquiere had requested a box from the Police Department (also in the building) specifically to pack up the chief’s personal items, Lippincott wrote that Blaquiere said he may have joked about it, but he had “no comment” when she pressed further for an explanation.

Lippincott said the request for a box was made by Blaquiere and another officer.

She said surveillance cameras show two firemen walking from the direction of the Police Department with a box in their hands.

“Based on the investigation, it is obvious that this is you and the other officer who obtained a box in order to impermissibly pack up the chief’s personal belongings,” she wrote in her letter of termination.

Lippincott said that during her meeting with Blaquiere he said he did what he did because of “issues” within the department; he “also insinuated that if things don’t change at the department, worse things will happen.”

Based on her investigation and comments made at the Dec. 9 meeting with Blaquiere, Lippincott found that Blaquiere tampered with and damaged town property, that he was instrumental in breaking into the chief’s office and packing up his personal belongings, that his conduct showed “gross insubordination” to the chief and the department, and “a complete lack of respect for the chain of command.”

She called Blaquiere’s statement that he was “fixing a light” to be “dishonest and intentionally made to avoid culpability,” that his conduct was “unacceptable and not to be tolerated,” “represents a dereliction of duty” and took place while Blaquiere was being paid by the town and was senior officer in charge.

She terminated his employment immediately.

Blaquiere was also told to return all town property, stay out of the Fire Department and “not to interfere with the town’s public safety operation.”

Blaquiere appealed the town manager’s decision to the Board of Selectmen and on March 16, board Chairman Scott Owens and Vice Chairman Floyd Thayer issued their decision upholding the termination.

The board’s decision was made after selectmen met in executive session Feb. 28 to hear Blaquiere’s appeal of his termination.

Despite instruction that he stay out of Fire Department matters, Blaquiere has continued to attend each selectmen meeting to question the board about Fire Department issues.

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Oxford selectman candidate Mark Blaquiere, left, attends Meet the Candidates Night  on Tuesday with fellow candidates Ernest “Ed” Knightly, center, and Dana Dillingham.

Mark Blaquiere

OXFORD — Two members of the Oxford Fire Department were disciplined for their role in the Nov. 25, 2016, break-in of former Fire Chief Wayne Jones’ office.

According to documents obtained Friday, firefighter Kyle Hewey was terminated Jan. 31 after he admitted to interim Town Manager Becky Lippincott on Jan. 23 that he was directly involved in the burglary at the Oxford Public Safety Building on Route 26.

After viewing a surveillance video that showed Hewey walking across the fire bay with a door spreader in his hands and using it to open the chief’s office door, Hewey admitted he did it and that it “was something that never should have happened,” according to his letter of termination.

Additionally, video surveillance shows Hewey obtaining a box from the police station which was used to pack up the chief’s belongings.

According to the termination letter, Lippincott found Hewey tampered with and damaged town property and was instrumental in breaking into the chief’s office and packing up his personal belongings. She wrote that his conduct showed “gross insubordination to the chief and the department and a complete lack of respect for the chain of command” and that his conduct was “not the conduct expected of a public safety officer for the town of Oxford.”

Lippincott wrote that Hewey’s conduct was “unacceptable and represented a dereliction of duty.”

Hewey was instructed to stay away from the Fire Department and not to interfere with the town’s public safety operations.

It is not known whether he appealed the case.

Firefighter Michael Doze was issued a written warning Dec. 20, 2016, that has been placed in his personnel file.

During a meeting with Lippincott on Dec. 15, Doze denied knowing anything about the incident, even though he was seen in a surveillance video working the day of the break-in.

Doze claimed, according to the Lippincott, that he was being targeted for complaining at the Dec. 5 departmental meeting that Jones was being “unsafe.”

Lippincott said her investigation was initiated Dec. 1.

She said based on the evidence presented to her, she believed Doze “at the very least” had knowledge of the incident and wasn’t truthful with (Police) Chief John  Tibbetts or herself when questioned about it.

“I expect town employees to be honest and truthful,” she wrote in the warning letter.

Doze was notified that if he faced any other disciplinary action in the future he would be fired.

It is unclear whether he appealed the decision.

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