- Editor's Note: This article was revoked on Jan. 23 and re-posted on Jan. 25 with additional information for clarity.
There is only one local fire company in Irvington, and despite a request to add a second company, that is the way it will stay for now.
Irvington Mayor Brian Smith says the Irvington Village Board of Trustees have unanimously decided to deny former Irvington firefighter Nikolai Kabelev's request to start a new volunteer fire company.
“The board and I thoroughly examined information relevant to Mr. Kabelev’s request, including presentations that he and the Village’s fire chiefs made at public trustee meetings,” wrote Smith, in his newsletter sent out on Saturday.
“The main criterion we used in evaluating the positions of the two parties was whether a second company would serve to improve the Village’s current firefighting capabilities. After much discussion and deliberation, our unanimous conclusion is that there would be no such benefit.”
In 2009, Kabelev filed a sexual harassment claim against a specific member of the fire company, which the village deemed founded. Kavbelev complained that one of his fellow firefighters created a hostile work environment, made derogatory comments on an internal messaging board, as well as talked behind his back to other firefighters while making comments that were sexual in nature, including that Kabelev was performing oral sex on the fire chief.
Schopfer wrote in his response to the complaint that it was his opinion that some of the fire company members were engaged in behavior consistent with the prohibition against retaliation clause within the Village’s sexual harassment policy since they questioned Kabelev’s eligibility to volunteer because of his citizenship status. Kabelev—who was once named Fire Fighter of the Year, is a member of the Irvington Volunteer Ambulance Corp. and works at Mela Sciences in Irvington—hails from Russia.
Irvington Village Manager suggested the individual named in the complaint be suspended for 60 days. Click here for a copy of the complaint posted by The Journal News.
Kabelev resigned from the Irvington Fire Company soon thereafter, but wanted to continue as a member of the Irvington Fire Department. After resigning, Kabelev said he received a letter in the mail asking him to turn in his fire fighting equipment because New York State laws requires fire department members to be members of a municipal fire company.
Kabelev criticized the Irvington Fire Company citing a lack of transparency, having a “boys club” mentality and for spending public donations and funds allotted by the village on social events, like an annual dinner at the Ritz Carlton and a trip to Lake George, instead of fire fighting equipment.
Irvington Fire Company is a non-profit organization funded by donations, fire insurance preminums and the East Irvington Fire Agreement and provides membership benefits and social events. The company has aruged against all of Kabelev's accusations and said they operate in a transparent member. Click here for a previous interview with the fire company.
He argued that his department would improve service, be transparent, have moral standards and be fiscally responsible. He said it would also end the “monopoly” the Irvington Fire Company has on allowing volunteers to fight fires in the village.
In July, Kabelev proposed starting a second fire company in Irvington, and said his new company would have different rules and a different “culture.”
The Irvington Fire Company disagrees with Kabelev and felt that a second fire company was excessive, divisive and would be detrimental to the Irvington Volunteer Fire Department.
“Nevertheless, we sincerely appreciate the open, honest and constructive dialogue that Mr. Kabelev’s proposal generated,” said Smith. “And we certainly look forward to continuing to work with the members of the Irvington Fire Company in support of their essential service to our community.”