FALL RIVER — Mayor of Fall River Paul Coogan has spoken out against allegations made in former harbormaster Bob Smith's July 13 letter of resignation that the city denied him access to his own department's funds, among other claims.

"While I am disappointed by the sudden resignation of Harbormaster Bob Smith, the contents of his letter do not accurately reflect the situation as it existed between the harbormaster and the Fall River Police Department," Coogan commented.

"Both the Police Department and the Fire Department have made and will continue to make all decisions with a serious and professional commitment to public safety."

Among the allegations made in Smith's letter are that Coogan's administration made his job "exceedingly difficult" by denying him access to necessary funding, including for purchases of safety equipment.

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Smith also claimed that a document submitted to federal authorities named him as the responsible party for the July 4th fireworks display, despite his not being consulted on safety measures.

Police Department spokesperson Capt. Barden Castro stated that prior to Smith's resignation, the harbormaster had a good working relationship with both the police and fire departments.

"No one has forged the harbormaster's signature on any type of documents or permits," Castro cited Police Chief Jeffrey Cardoza as stating. "The Police Department thanks Bob Smith...for his service to the citizens of Fall River, and we wish him well in his new endeavors."

Castro said that Smith had been asked to generate purchase orders for necessary items before buying them, as opposed to getting reimbursed after the fact, but stated that he had not been cut off from accessing his department's funds.

 

As for the fireworks permit, Castro said it was completed and submitted to the Coast Guard by the pyrotechnics company involved in the display.

"The City of Fall River did not submit or sign that document," he said, adding that he assumes the pyrotechnics company filled in the harbormaster's name and contact details as standard business practice.

Castro also said that someone has already agreed to fill in as interim harbormaster, and in case of emergencies, the police and fire departments have their own harbor patrol boats.

"Obviously that's our number one priority, to make sure all the boaters are safe out there, and that we're on top of the situation in case of emergencies," he added. "We haven't skipped a beat on that aspect."

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