By JOHN LEANING STAFF WRITER
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
FAIRHAVEN - As the town's First Harbor Master, George "Skip" Gray was often the first person pleasure-boaters entering Fairhaven's small harbor saw. More than one boater was startled to see the man welcoming them to the small town of 16,000 people with a large revolver strapped to his side. Now, Gray is calling it quits because town selectmen won't let him pack his gun at work anymore.
Gray, referring to what he called an "irreconcilable situation," resigned as harbor master Monday. He said he could no longer effectively perform his duties. Town selectmen voted 2-1 on Monday evening against allowing Gray and other waterfront officers to carry handguns on the job. Gray, a former deputy sheriff, had seen the negative vote coming and resigned earlier in the day. After the vote, Kevin J. Villa, the town's shellfish warden, declared he would not go back to his job if he was not permitted to carry a gun. "I will not go on duty without a weapon, so you have another decision to make," Villa said. "I just hope your decision here doesn't get the next warden killed." A disciplinary hearing has been set for July 20 to consider action against Villa. Villa, who has been using sick-leave time during the dispute, told the selectmen he was not resigning but would only perform office duty if not allowed to carry his gun.
The weapons issue came to a head a few weeks ago when questions arose about the town's potential liability with both waterfront officials carrying weapons on the job. The town officials discovered the town was not covered, unless they had both men undergo training police officers go through, including psychological evaluation, training in deadly force and yearly retraining. Selectman Winfred Eckenreiter said he couldn't imagine a situation in which the waterfront officials would need a weapon.
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