Mass. Fire Chief Quits After Drug Theft Charges

Mass. Fire Chief Quits After Drug Theft Charges

News Nov 29, 2012

With charges of stealing narcotics from the town's ambulance hanging over his head, Fire Chief David F. Cobb resigned yesterday.

Town Administrator John Lebeaux released a statement yesterday morning announcing Mr. Cobb's resignation, effective Nov. 19. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Mr. Cobb, hired in January, had been the town's first full-time fire chief. John Bennett was promoted to acting fire chief, and has led the department since Mr. Cobb was placed on paid leave July 7.

"The board intends to quickly commence the process to fill the vacancy for this important position," according to the statement. "It also wishes to acknowledge Princeton Fire and EMS personnel for their continued commitment to provide superior emergency services."

Selectmen placed Mr. Cobb on administrative leave when they learned that he was facing criminal charges related to the theft of drugs from the town's ambulance. On Nov. 5, selectmen voted to place him on unpaid leave.

Mr. Cobb, 45, of 100 Cutler Road, in the Jefferson section of Holden, was arraigned in October on one count of larceny of a drug, and one count of obtaining drugs by fraud. He was released on personal recognizance, and scheduled to return to court Dec. 3.

The investigation into the alleged theft began earlier this year, when pharmacists at St. Vincent Hospital in Worcester and Heywood Hospital in Gardner notified state police that "excessive amounts of narcotics were being dispensed to the Princeton Fire Department," according to a state police report included in court records. State police conducted an audit of the narcotics being dispensed to the Princeton Fire Department, and found that varying amounts of fentanyl, morphine, valium and versed were unaccounted for. Mr. Cobb was the primary record keeper of narcotics for the Princeton Fire Department and had signed out the drugs that were dispensed from the two hospitals, the report said.

"He is responsible for replenishing new stock," the report said. There were numerous "questionable" log notes that indicated that narcotics were picked up, but that they were "wasted." There were no corresponding log entries about how the drugs were wasted, the report said. In several instances, the narcotics count for the Princeton ambulance was changed without explanation, the report noted.

When asked about the terms of the settlement between Mr. Cobb and the Board of Selectmen that led to Mr. Cobb's resignation, Mr. Lebeaux declined further comment. The Telegram & Gazette asked that the documents pertaining to the settlement be made public. Mr. Lebeaux said he would consult with the town's attorney, but did not release the documents by last night.

Calls to Mr. Cobb's home yesterday were not returned.

Copyright 2012 Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Inc.All Rights Reserved

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TELEGRAM & GAZETTE (Massachusetts)
Sandy Meindersma, CORRESPONDENT
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