What was missing has been returned, but Peabody mayor Larry Larsen took council member Steve Rose to task Monday for taking three historic fire helmets valued at almost $3,000 without authorization or notice.
Rose said he took the helmets, including one dating to the late 1800s worth about $2,000, from the city offices six or seven months ago.
“Eight months ago I got word that somebody was going to take the helmets, so I just thought about it a little bit, and a month later I went in and got them,” Rose said.
The helmets, which include a mid-20th century model and one from a retired 4th Fire District chief, were secured at the fire station, and he intended to build a display case for them, he said.
“If you thought there was a potential crime, why didn’t you tell the police chief?” Larsen said. “Why couldn’t we have impounded them instead of you?”
Rose replied that fire chief Mark Penner knew he had taken the helmets to the station.
“Nobody from the city knew it,” Larsen said.
It was a couple of weeks ago when Larsen was in the city office signing checks that clerk Stephanie Lago told him the helmets were missing, he said.
“She texted Steve, and Steve said that he in fact removed them and had them in his possession or knew where they were,” Larsen said. “At last city council meeting I asked Steve if he removed the helmets and he said, ‘Yes,’ and I said, ‘Bring them back.’”
Rose said he had exchanged texts with Lago about a month after taking the helmets and that he had said he had them and they were at the fire station.
Larsen said that when he talked with Rose two days after the last council meeting, Rose said he wasn’t going to bring the helmets back.
A subsequent conversation between Larsen and city attorney Rob Lane led to the drafting of a letter telling Rose that he was in “unlawful possession of city property” and that the helmets must be returned.
Rose said he responded to the letter and delivered the helmets to the police department, where they were secured in an evidence room.
“They’re safe now,” he said.
“The key is they never should have been taken without asking,” Larsen said. “I’m not saying that there’s a huge impropriety that happened here with intent, but I’m sure disappointed in the fact that somebody could come into a city-owned building of their own regard and take city property.”
Larsen said the council could take up the issue of building a secure display case at a future meeting. Council members approved keeping the helmets at the police department until plans are finalized.