HILLSBOROUGH: Former fire chief ousted for submitting false certifications

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Andrew Martins, Managing Editor
The discovery of false certificates by the Hillsborough Township Board of Fire Commissioners led to the resignation of a former township fire chief, in a move that local fire officials wanted to be handled “discretely and quickly.”
Nick Speciale, a former Hillsborough Township Fire Company No. 2 chief and deputy coordinator with the township’s Officer of Emergency Management team, submitted his resignation to the board of fire commissioners back in October after a pair of extrication certificates he submitted were deemed illegitimate. He had been a firefighter since the late ’80s.
“Up until this point, [Speciale] has had a clean bill of service,” Fire Commissioner Charles Nuara said.
Though Nuara declined to comment on specific personnel matters surrounding Speciale’s resignation, he confirmed that apparent discrepancies with the submitted documents were found following a “complete audit” of existing certificates.
The aforementioned extrication certificates linked to Speciale were the only ones to come up with any issues, Nuara said.
Speciale could not be reached for comment.
According to the minutes of an Oct. 5 Board of Fire Commissioners closed work meeting, issues with the two extrication certificates were brought to the board’s attention back in September. At the time, officials said the submitted documents did not match similar certificates provided by the Somerset County Emergency Services Training Academy.
As a result, Commissioner Patrick Buckley reviewed other transcripts provided by the academy and compared them to those submitted by Speciale, confirming that they were not the same as those given to individuals who complete their training.
Nuara then spoke to Speciale, who denied that they were not legitimate certificates. Several days later, however, officials said the former fire chief sent an e-mail to Nuara, admitting that the certificates were fake, citing “a lot of personal things going on,” according to the minutes of the Oct. 5 meeting.
Speciale then submitted a letter of resignation to Fire Chief Rich Bartolucci and Deputy Chief Bill Shaffer, of Hillsborough Township Fire Company No. 2. His resignation was formally announced at the monthly fire meeting at station 37 on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
Nuara also spoke with OEM Director John Sheridan, as well as Chief Fire Marshal Chris Weniger, about the revelations.
At the Oct. 10 public Board of Fire Commissioners meeting, Nuara publicly announced Speciale’s resignation.
According to the meeting minutes, the commissioners decided that Speciale can only submit an application to rejoin the fire company as a social member after a year. The Hillsborough Township Fire Company No. 2 website still has him listed as an ex-chief/life member.
In addition to his resignation and limitation as a potential social member, officials said Speciale has been barred from holding “any firematic or administrative duty in the Hillsborough Township Fire District.”