• New fire chief elected in Bennington
    By PATRICK MCARDLE
    Staff Writer | February 04,2013
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    BENNINGTON — Joseph Hayes, who pleaded guilty in January to a misdemeanor charge involving an incident that happened at an emergency scene, was voted out as the chief of the Bennington Rural Fire Department but maintains a leadership position in the department.

    Shawn Gardner, who was second assistant chief last year, is the new chief of the department. The district elects officers from the floor and Gardner was elected over Hayes.

    Bennington has two fire departments, one which is a department of the town and another that maintains its own independent taxing district. The Bennington Rural Fire District hosted its annual meeting on Monday.

    John Scutt became first assistant chief on Monday, after defeating the previous first-assistant chief, Ken Goings.

    Aaron Longtin was elected Monday as second assistant chief.

    Both Hayes and Goings were added to the prudential committee, which oversees the fire department and its budget, for terms of one year. Until Monday, the prudential committee had three members but voters approved a request to expand it to a five-person committee and elected Hayes and Goings to the new spots.

    Voters also approved a budget of $394,300, an increase of $49,400 or about 14 percent, from last year’s budget of $344,900. Two items that passed will allow the department to buy five new sets of turn-out gear for $12,000 and provide $25,000 for specialty vehicles.

    Hayes was charged in 2012 with misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and unlawful mischief after police said he had thrown a flashlight at a car at an emergency scene on June 3. He pleaded guilty in January to disorderly conduct.

    In 2007, Hayes was charged with embezzling from the Bennington Rural Fire Department. The charge was referred to the diversion program which allows first-time offenders charged with non-violent crimes to resolve a charge without having a permanent criminal record.
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