Caught on camera: Former New Bedford fire chief fired after city sting

City: video showed Paul Coderre unloading a 176-pound barbeque smoker from his truck while on injury leave

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — The former acting chief of the New Bedford Fire Department has been fired after a city investigation and video surveillance operation.

Mayor Jon Mitchell says the city terminated Acting Fire Chief Paul Coderre, Jr., for “dishonesty and untruthfulness in connection with alleged work-related injuries.”

The city says Coderre “claimed to have sustained several work-related injuries during 2019, which resulted in his being placed on injury leave in August 2020. Since then, Coderre remained out of work receiving full pay, pursuant to state law.”

However, the city launched an investigation into those claims in the summer of 2021.

According to the city, the “investigation yielded video surveillance evidence of Coderre performing activities inconsistent with his alleged injuries, including his unloading, without assistance, a 176-pound barbeque smoker grill from the bed of his personal pickup truck.”

And the allegation was captured on video.

The City of New Bedford says and independent medical examiner originally accepted Coderre’s account of the “limitations caused by his alleged injuries.”

“However, when later presented with the video evidence captured on multiple days in June and August 2021, the examiner reassessed Coderre’s assertions and the applicable medical record, subsequently concluding that Coderre had been ‘untruthful’ and ‘putting on an act,’” the city said in a statement.

A hearing into the case was held earlier this month. The city says Coderre and his attorney declined to attend that hearing.

“Coderre’s actions reflect discredit, not credit, on the Fire Department and likely will adversely impact good order inside the department. He engaged in an activity that is detrimental to the Fire Department. He engaged in conflict of interest to use his position for personal gain. He abused the department injury leave policy,” according to the city report.

“The former Acting Chief failed to adhere to the policies and procedures of his own Department, in doing so he betrayed the trust of the firefighters that served under his command, and he took advantage of city taxpayers who paid his injured-on-duty benefits,” said Mayor Mitchell.

The city says Coderre received $208,574 in injured-on-duty benefits while he was on injury leave over 16-months period from August 2020 through the end of 2021.

“In addition, Coderre benefitted from laws which exempted him from paying any state or federal income taxes while on injury leave. Coderre’s annualized salary as Acting Fire Chief was approximately $150,000,” said the city in its statement.

The city says Coderre served as the City’s Deputy Fire Chief from 2011 to 2018. He was appointed to Acting Fire Chief in December 2018 upon the retirement of the previous fire chief.

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