Mayor confirms acting fire chief Fontenault to retire

Warwick Beacon ·

Through one of his spokeswomen, Mayor Joseph Solomon confirmed Wednesday that Acting Fire Chief Marcel Fontenault has submitted his letter of retirement.

No additional information, such as when Fontenault submitted the letter, when he would leave or who would now head the department, was made available. Calls to Fontenault were not returned.

Fontenault stepped into the post during a period of change in administrations. Hardly a month earlier, then-Mayor Scott Avedisian announced he would resign after serving 18 years to head the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. This put City Council President Joseph Solomon in the role of acting mayor. Within days of Avedisian’s announcement, Fire Chief James McLaughlin said he would retire in May as well. When McLaughlin accelerated that action, Fontenault took on the job of presenting the department budget to the City Council.

He has found himself in the spotlight more than once since then over questions raised about their policy allowing for untracked changes of shifts, payment for unused sick time that rely on handwritten ledgers and alleged “side agreements” forged by previous fire administrations and their union with Avedisian. Inquiries have gone up as high as the FBI, according to multiple sources who have confirmed they were interviewed by the federal agency.

The City Council voted for an audit of department records last summer. A report has not been released and the Beacon filed an accesses to public records act (APRA) request for any findings or preliminary findings on Jan. 30. In a Feb. 12 response from the City Clerk’s office, the city requested an additional month to respond.

Fontenault began his firefighting career in 1980 as a firefighter/EMT-C with the Nasonville Fire District in Burrillville and joined the Smithfield Fire Department in 1987. He served both departments until joining the Warwick department in 1992. He held the rank of firefighter for nine years, during which he earned a Letter of Recognition and a Citation for Meritorious Performance.

He served as a rescue lieutenant from 2002 until 2010 and earned recognition for his actions during the Station Nightclub Fire and, in 2005, the Mark Wheeler Memorial Award. He was promoted to fire lieutenant in 2010 and took the oath of fire captain in 2016. He became assistant chief in February of 2018.