Ansonia Fire Chief Ron Burgess, Sr. was teaching gun safety courses out of the fire chief’s office inside the city’s public works building.
Burgess’ “Valley Guns Protection and Safety,” offered NRA Pistol Certification courses for people working toward obtaining a pistol permit.
Two of the fire chief’s weapons — a pistol and a rifle — were reported stolen from his office on North Division Street the morning of Aug. 9.
Those weapons, police said, were temporarily stored at the office for safekeeping because Burgess was having a get together at his house.
Ansonia police spokesman Lt. Wayne Williams said police were not aware, prior to the burglary, that gun safety classes were being offered at the location.
It is not clear how long the classes were held in Ansonia. The website for “Valley Guns Protection and Safety” has been disabled. A cached image of the site from June shows that Burgess has been an instructor for four years. It is unclear what Burgess charged for the course, or if there was a charge.
Burgess, who has not returned calls for comments, was under no legal obligation to tell police about the classes, Williams said.
However, the gun safety course — including who took the classes — has a role in the police department’s investigation into the burglary, which also netted thieves about $6,000 worth of fire department equipment.
“We may want to talk to anyone who took the classes down there because we’re doing an investigation into the burglary,” Williams said. “When it comes to that type of burglary, whether it was random or not, we will always talk to individuals who may have taken classes or had access to the building.”
Burgess is not the subject of a criminal investigation. City Hall officials are still exploring whether he violated any internal policies.
The classes were not secret. Burgess’ website listed the classes as being held at the fire chief’s office.
In addition, Ansonia’s Fountain Hose Co. 1 linked to Burgess’ outfit from its website.
Mayor James Della Volpe placed Burgess on administrative leave Aug. 10.
The mayor did so because Burgess did not have permission to store the two guns on city property.
“I have never authorized the storage of firearms at any city building other than the police department out of concern for the public safety of our citizens,” Della Volpe wrote in a press release.
Della Volpe said Tuesday a labor attorney — Fran Teodosio — will interview Burgess to get more information about why he had the guns stored at the office, and who, if anyone, gave him permission to do so.
On Wednesday, Della Volpe said part of his investigation into the incident will involve questions about the pistol safety course, which Della Volpe said he was unaware of until the burglary.
“I don’t know if he was doing it for profit, not for profit. If it was just for the fire department, or for other people as well,” Della Volpe said.
“I’ve got to hear all the facts,” Della Volpe said. “If others are involved. I’m going to deal with that too.”
Della Volpe declined to comment further, saying he didn’t want to make any predetermination about the situation.
The Ansonia Fire Department is a volunteer organization, but Burgess receives about $6,000 in a stipend each year.
The city’s ethics code prohibits city officials or employees from using any publicly-owned property “for the personal convenience or the private advantage of himself or for any other person,” unless the employee or official has permission from “the appropriate authority or agency.”
Calls seeking comment with left Wednesday with Aldermanic President/Fire Commissioner Stephen Blume and Alderman/Fire Commissioner Gene Sharkey.
The search for whoever stole the guns and equipment continues. Anyone with information should call the Ansonia Police Department at 203-735-1885.