Primer for Newly-Elected Fire Commissioners

AuthorRaymond S. DiRaddo
Chapter 5A
Primer for Newly Elected
Fire Commissioners
New York Fire District Officers’ Guide
§5A:10 5A-2
Congratulations. You have been elected or appointed to the position of fire district commissioner. This primer
follows the outline of the chapters of the New York State Fire District Officers Guide, which presents a more
detailed treatment of the issues you may confront as a commissioner.
Take the time to familiarize yourself with the issues in this primer and the New York Fire District Officer’s
Guide, as it addresses your powers, duties, and responsibilities as a New York State fire district commissioner.
This primer is not intended as a substitute for the detailed information set forth in the New York Fire District
Officer’s Guide. Its intention is to familiarize you with some of the issues, laws, duties, and responsibilities of a
fire district commissioner.
Your powers, duties, and responsibilities are different than those of a fire chief and different than the powers,
duties, and responsibilities of members of the board of directors,
You are now a public officer, like any elected official, although your powers, duties, and responsibilities may
vary from a county legislator, or town or village board member.
You should also be familiar with Town Law §176, as it lists much of your statutory authority.
A fire district is a political subdivision within New York State. You must reside in the fire district to be elected
or appointed to the position of fire district commissioner. You must also maintain residence within the fire district
during your term of office. If you are no longer a resident of the fire district, your position becomes vacant and
you can no longer carry on the powers, duties, and responsibilities of a fire commissioner.
After you are elected or appointed, you must sign and file the oath of office. The fire district secretary should
help you through this process, but it is your responsibility to see to it that the oath of office is signed and is prop-
erly filed with the clerk or clerks of the town or towns that comprise your fire district.
As a fire district commissioner, you are required to complete 6 hours of training in the area of fire district law.
This course is an expense of the fire district and must be completed within 270 days of taking office. The course
must be taken even if your term of office is only for one year or a part of a year.
Certain acts as commissioners may result in automatic removal from office, and it would be beneficial to be
aware of these activities. These acts include your conviction for a felony or any arson conviction.
As a commissioner, you should also be familiar with the responsibilities of fire district commissioners, their
meetings, the operation of the Board of Fire Commissioners, the fiscal responsibilities that come with the posi-
tion, and your duties of overseeing the fire companies and department. Familiarize yourself with certain other
positions, such as chairman of the board of fire commissioners, and the fire district treasurer and secretary.
Fire district officers must follow state ethic rules as well as the fire district’s own Code of Ethics, and the
consequences of Violation of the Code of Ethics, such as void and unenforceable contracts, and suspension or
removal from office.
As with most governmental bodies, the board of fire commissioners must have their organizational meeting
by January 15th of the new year.
The treasurer usually begins the meeting calling for nominations for the Chairman. Many boards approve a
vice-Chairman, who may act as the chairman in the chairman’s absence.
The board next appoints a secretary and the appointive treasurer. The bond for the treasurer is approved at the
organizational meeting, and this bond must be filed with the towns where the fire district is located.
Oaths of office are often given at the organizational meeting. It is important that these oaths be filed with the
secretary and the clerks of the towns where the district is located
There are other items that should be accomplished at the fire district’s organizational meeting
1. Designation of the official newspapers
2. Designation of official banks or trust companies to deposit district funds
3. Designation of board meeting dates and times and media notification

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