Report: Tri-State Fire District chief retiring with lucrative deal

DARIEN – Chief of the Tri-State Fire Protection District Michelle Gibson recently retired, but her departure comes following a yearlong Better Government Association probe that uncovered padded pensions, conflicts of interest and questionable spending habits.

The BGA is reporting that even though Gibson is no longer at Tri-State, district taxpayers are still on the hook for her going-away package, which, according to the BGA, is worth more than $136,000.

Tri-State officials could not answer questions about the deal, and it is not clear whether trustees followed district policies, according to the BGA.

Among those who approved the retirement agreement was Gibson’s civil union partner, Jill Strenzel, who was elected in late 2003 to the three-member board that oversees the Darien-based agency.

According to the contract, Tri-State will pay the 52-year-old Gibson $114,963.55 for unused sick, vacation and personal time, as well as a lump sum payment of $22,000, the BGA said.

About 87 percent of the $114,963.55, or, about $100,000, was for unused sick time accrued over the course of Gibson’s 33-year Tri-State employment, which ended Feb. 15, according to Jack Mancione, former deputy chief of Tri-State who was recently promoted to chief, the BGA said.

According to the report, Mancione told the BGA via email that he was replying on behalf of the board, and said trustees believe the contract is “fair and reasonable to the taxpayers.”