By Dave Rogers
---- — ROWLEY — Fire Chief James Broderick returned to duty Monday, more than a month after he was placed on administrative leave for allegedly shoving a probationary firefighter. Broderick was eventually charged with simple assault by local police, but late last month, a Newburyport District Court clerk magistrate granted a general continuance, meaning no criminal charges were filed against Broderick.
Broderick confirmed Tuesday he had returned to work Monday but declined to comment on his return or the hearing before the clerk magistrate.
‘That’s all I have to say,” Broderick said.
Rowley Town Administrator Deborah Eagan said the town’s Board of Selectmen reviewed and addressed the matter as it deemed appropriate, but she wouldn’t offer any more details into the actions taken by the town.
“It’s still a personnel matter, so I really can’t comment on it,” Eagan said Tuesday.
Broderick’s attorney, Salisbury-based Nicole Reilly, said since the alleged incident, her client has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support offered to him by friends, family and the community.
“He’s extremely pleased to be back at work and just happy to put the matter behind him,” Reilly said.
Asked if her client felt the initial charge against him was unfair to begin with, Reilly declined to answer.
“You’d have to ask the Rowley police that one,” Reilly said.
According to police, the simple assault charge stemmed from an argument between Broderick and another firefighter on April 3, which began at the station after they had returned from extinguishing a shed fire on Wethersfield Street that morning.
Following the alleged confrontation, the firefighter filed a complaint with police that quickly began an investigation led by Detective Lt. Joseph Gamache. Broderick was placed on administrative leave shortly thereafter as the town conducted its own investigation into the charge.
Since 1997, Broderick has led the small rural department that employs two full-time firefighters and 25 paid on-call firefighters. The department has three fire engines, an aerial ladder truck, two brush trucks, a rescue/command vehicle and a utility unit, according to the department’s website. In 2010, Broderick earned a salary of $74,377, according to the town’s annual report.