BY ETHAN FORMAN STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — DANVERS — Fire Chief Kevin Farrell returned to work Sunday, four months after he was placed on leave following his arrest on domestic assault charges at the home of his estranged wife.
Farrell, 48, jumped back into the job in time to help with emergency planning as Hurricane Sandy barreled up the East Coast.
“I might as well get both feet wet,” he said yesterday.
Town Manager Wayne Marquis reinstated Farrell after he was medically cleared to return to duty, after a brief stay at a residential treatment program followed by counseling. The charges against him were dismissed by a judge in September after Farrell’s wife refused to testify.
“Kevin has worked hard to address the personal and health-related issues which have kept him off the job since late June,” Marquis said in a statement.
Farrell, who earns $104,000, was placed on paid administrative leave shortly after Groveland police arrested him following an incident at the home of his estranged wife on the evening of June 26. Marquis then placed Farrell on sick leave sometime in July.
The 27-year Danvers firefighter had been suffering the effects of both personal and professional stress, his defense attorney, Benjamin Richard, told the courts at the time, suggesting that his case would be best dealt with “through mental health treatment and counseling.”
“He has gone through a process as far as medical treatment,” Marquis said yesterday. “He’s fully cleared, and we are glad he’s back.”
“I’m just happy to be back,” said Farrell, who said he looks forward to doing the job for which he has trained for much of his life. Farrell said he worked hard to become the town’s fire chief and said if he caused the department any embarrassment, he plans to work “doubly hard” to erase that image.
Bill Clark, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, agreed with Marquis’ decision.
“I would reiterate what the town manager said,” Clark said. “I feel Kevin is a very competent chief, and it would be a great loss if we lost him.”
While the town manager has control over the hiring of the fire chief, many firefighters came to Clark to talk about Farrell as someone who paid attention to detail and did his job well.
“The guys in the department were very praiseworthy,” Clark said. “There was an inordinate number of firefighters who came to me who spoke highly favorably of him and wished him well.”
Veteran fire Capt. Jim McPherson had been filling in as acting chief and has now returned to his position as captain.
“Jim has done an outstanding job in providing needed leadership and direction to the department during a difficult time period,” Marquis said. “I’ve expressed our appreciation to Jim both for his selfless act in accepting the acting chief’s position and for a job very well done.”
Farrell was named fire chief in 2011, after serving nearly a year as acting chief following the retirement of former Chief James Tutko. The deputy chief position has been vacant since Farrell was promoted from deputy chief to chief.
“We are moving forward with the process that will lead to the appointment of a new deputy fire chief in November,” Marquis said in the statement. “We have also welcomed two new firefighters who were appointed to the department in recent weeks to fill vacancies created by retirements.”
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.