UTICA – Mayor Robert Palmieri announced Tuesday that James Barefoot has been appointed temporary chief of the Utica Fire Department.
“I love the Utica Fire Department and I’m honored to be given the opportunity to once again serve the residents of Utica. Our men and woman do an outstanding job protecting our community, and this is an opportunity to restore public confidence, reinvigorate the Department and move it forward,” said Barefoot in an email statement.
Barefoot was a member of the Utica Fire Department for 32 years, rising to the rank of captain, before retiring in 2012. He currently runs his own business, ABC Fire Extinguisher Co., which the mayor’s office says he will step away from to focus on his new fire chief responsibilities.
“Captain Barefoot is an exceptional fire fighter, leader and role model that members of the Utica Fire Department look up to. The City of Utica is fortunate to have a great public servant like Captain Barefoot serve in this capacity, and I am confident he will do an excellent job bringing leadership to the Utica Fire Department,” said Palmieri.
Monday, Palmieri announced current Temporary Chief John Kelly would step down from that position on July 1st. Kelly will remain a member of the fire department. Kelly was appointed temporary chief in July 2017 after Russell Brooks was placed on administrative leave.
Last week, the city said a member of the fire department was investigated by the Utica Police Department, but no criminal conduct had taken place. That unnamed firefighter was disciplined, but the city would not release any details surrounding the investigation citing civil service privacy laws. A local radio station published multiple reports last week detailing alleged text messages of a sexual nature between a potential firefighter recruit and a chief in the department, but NewsChannel 2 was unable to verify the authenticity of those messages.
Thursday, Utica Common Councilor Joe Marino called for the mayor to step down as public safety commissioner and hire a new person to that position, citing potential ethical dilemmas raised by one person holding dual roles.
Barefoot will assume his new duties on July 2nd.