Retired Belleville Fire Battalion Chief Sounds Off About Melham’s Record

Retired Belleville Fire Battalion Chief Anthony DeBerto recounts the BFD's struggles and other grievances against former councilman and current mayoral candidate Michael Melham while he was in office.

Residents joined more than 200 firefighters from at least a dozen towns on Nov 27, 2001, to protest firefighter layoffs in Belleville. Photo credit Richard Dickon, Belleville Times



As a lifelong resident of Belleville and retired from the fire department, I usually keep to my own when it comes to politics, until now.

I’ve been listening to people sing the praises of Michael Melham for Mayor and how he’s going to clean up Belleville. When Mr. Melham was a councilman way back in the dark ages, 2000 – [2004], he was part of the council majority that was under the control of the “political puppet master” Rich Yanuzzi. Mr. Yanuzzi sat in the audience, like a modern day Caesar, giving the thumbs up or down the way he wanted the council to vote on the ordinances.

Under that council’s watch they;

1) Accused the then Town Manager, Ray Kimble, of absconding with 3 million in town revenue, firing him without notice at a town meeting, where Mr. Tom Banker replaced Mr. Kimble. This accusation was proven false years later when the council was voted out and an audit of the books was done,

2) 20 firefighters were being laid off and 5 officers demoted. All within the weeks following the attack on the World Trade Center. Done illegally without Civil Service’s knowledge or consent,

3) Took away health benefits for widows and eligible children. These were later reissued after the union won a court decision,

4) Attempted to privatize the ambulance that the Belleville Fire Department has run since 1932,

5) Accused the members of the Fire Department of nepotism, all while Mr. Melham secured employment for his mother in the Building Department.

Both the firefighters and officer unions, under the direction of Patrick Dunn and myself, fought the town council on the attacks on our negotiated contract and beat the council every time in court.

Although Mr. Melham may not thought of these onslaughts against the Fire Department and unions, he was clearly part of the council that attacked active and retired firefighters and their widows.

Just look at Mr. Melham’s track record, it’s all a matter of public record, and you decide if he’s right for Belleville!


Anthony DeBerto



Editor’s note: Linked below is some newspaper coverage we have in our archive. More may be added as we identify relevant coverage.


Firefighters unite to oppose layoffs, private ambulances (Belleville Times, Dec 5, 2001)
Picket, Page 7













About Griff 321 Articles
Lee "Griff" Dorry - Founder, watchdog, and public advocate. ♫ They've got strings, but you can see, there are no strings on me. ♫

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply