March 08--SACKETS HARBOR -- A former member of the Sackets Harbor Fire Company is accusing its leadership of improperly removing her.
"This process was a marginalization of me in the fire department," Helene G. Stewart-Rainville said Thursday. "I'm being forced out, and I think there's something wrong."
She said she served with the volunteer company since August 2007 as an emergency medical technician, before becoming an interior firefighter in 2009.
She said she was nationally certified as a Firefighter II, among other qualifications.
Ms. Stewart-Rainville, in a letter to the department sent Feb. 12 through her attorney, Barry M. Schreibman, of Cazenovia, also accused department leadership of ignoring a death threat against her.
The president of the company's board of directors, Michael D. Hoagland, said a response to the allegations was being prepared by attorney Jonathan B. Fellows of Bond, Schoeneck & King Attorneys, Syracuse, and declined to talk about specifics of the letter.
The February letter from Mr. Schreibman states that meetings asked for by the company to discuss her employment did not meet the legal standard of a hearing, in which she could cross-examine witnesses.
Ms. Stewart-Rainville said the department sent her a letter Jan. 15 saying she was terminated and telling her to return her equipment.
Her letter to Mr. Hoagland also describes what she said was a death threat to her from another member last May, along with a later incident in which she alleges the same person tried to hit her with a firetruck.
The letter says Ms. Stewart-Rainville, believing that person to be a soldier, contacted Fort Drum police, which she says led to scrutiny of her by the fire company.
"Instead of investigating her allegations, they investigated her," Mr. Schreibman said Thursday. Both Ms. Stewart-Rainville and Mr. Schreibman declined to discuss specifics of the incidents beyond what was stated in the letter.
Mr. Schreibman said the department's allegation that she could not "work effectively with other members" was inaccurate.
"They just made it up, in the same way they made up the procedure to terminate her," he said.
Mr. Schreibman said he hoped a solution could be determined without taking the matter to the state Division of Human Rights, which handles employment discrimination cases.
Ms. Stewart-Rainville, who said her last fire call was in August, said she hoped to return to work if the issue could be resolved.
Last year, Ms. Stewart-Rainville accused village police Sgt. Richard G. Coseo of improperly using a police vehicle, a claim that was investigated and later dismissed by the village Board of Trustees.
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