Paul Coderre Jr. helped load a 176-pound smoker grill into his pickup truck on a sunny day last June, before later removing it on his own. For the city of New Bedford, Mass., that routine action was hugely significant. As acting fire chief, Coderre had claimed work-related injuries that resulted in him receiving $208,574 in paid injury leave and allowed him to avoid state and federal income taxes over 16 months beginning in August 2020. Video evidence of that June action showed he was "putting on an act," an independent medical examiner concluded before Coderre—who had made a request for disability retirement—was fired this week.
"He took advantage of city taxpayers who paid his injured-on-duty benefits" and "betrayed the trust of the firefighters that served under his command" by failing "to adhere to the policies and procedures of his own Department," Mayor Jon Mitchell says in a statement. The independent medical examiner had originally accepted Coderre's claim of "limitations" caused by injuries suffered on the job. "However, when later presented with the video evidence captured on multiple days in June and August 2021, the examiner reassessed Coderre's assertions … concluding that Coderre had been 'untruthful,'" the city says, per WFXT.
A video recorded in August showed Coderre—who had an annual salary of about $150,000—lifting a large vehicular cargo carrier. At a Jan. 13 hearing, which Coderre and his attorney declined to attend, an officer appointed to the case found Coderre had "abused the department injury leave policy … for personal gain," and that his actions, perhaps known to some firefighters, would've had an "adverse impact on member morale and discipline." Noting Coderre also pocketed $13,500 in accrued vacation time, WPRI reports the city has forwarded the case to the Bristol County District Attorney's Office for further legal action. (Read more Massachusetts stories.)