A consultant hired by the town to facilitate the search for Nantucket’s new fire chief has connections to one of the candidates selected as a finalist, raising new questions about the search process.
John "Jack" Parow, who has served more than 40 years in the fire service and was the fire chief of Chelmsford, Mass.,for nearly two decades, has been paid nearly $10,000 by the town to assist Nantucket’s fire chief search committee in interviewing candidates and designing an assessment center to evaluate finalists.
One of the two finalists for the job is Chris Christopoulos, Jr. the fire chief and emergency management director for the city of Lebanon, New Hampshire. Parow and Christopoulos have both previously served as officers of the New England Association of Fire Chiefs, attending meetings and taking photos together over the years.
But both Parow and Nantucket town manager Libby Gibson dismissed any suggestion that the relationship could be considered a conflict of interest.
Contacted by the Current, Parow initially declined to comment. He then called back to emphasize that his relationship with Christopoulos was strictly professional.
“I don’t have a personal relationship with any of the candidates,” Parow said. “I have a professional relationship with one of them. I know a lot of the fire chiefs. That's a professional relationship, not a personal relationship. I don’t let anything like that enter into any of the (search process decisions). I didn’t know he (Christopoulos) was applying, and I haven’t seen Chris face-to-face in five or six years.”
Asked by the Current about whether the Parow and Christopoulos’ relationship had been disclosed to the town during the search process, Gibson said he had done so verbally, but said she was unsure when that disclosure happened because “it wasn’t an issue.”
“He did let us know that he has a professional relationship with a candidate,” Gibson said. “We did not consider it an issue that our consultant, with decades of experience in the fire profession, would have perhaps numerous professional relationships. I would say it’s common and is helpful with respect to attracting qualified candidates. It’s not just the fire profession where recruiters have professional relationships. Again, it’s common.”
The fire chief search has already come under intense scrutiny when it was reported last week that current Nantucket Fire Department Deputy Chief Sean Mitchell had not been selected as a finalist. In the wake of the Veranda House blaze on July 9, when Mitchell took over command of the fire scene from outgoing fire chief Steve Murphy who was recovering from surgery, the community has rallied to support Mitchell’s candidacy.
Correction: an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that John "Jack" Parow and Chris Christopoulos served on the board of the New England Association of Fire Chiefs at the same time. Their terms on the board did not directly coincide despite the organization's annual conference program books indicating they both served as officers at the same time.