ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland Court of Special Appeals Tuesday upheld the 1994 expulsion of a former president and lifetime member of a Montgomery County volunteer fire department.
Avon B. Chisholm, who served in the Hyattstown Volunteer Fire Department for 27 years, was dismissed for interfering in an investigation of the organization’s current president.
Scott Testerman Sr., the department’s vice president, filed formal charges against Chisholm in a 1993 letter, accusing him of trying to obtain confidential reports from the investigation of the organization’s current president.
A seven-member panel of the fire department expelled Chisholm in February 1994.
Chisholm took the decision to court. According to court documents, he argued that his lifetime membership, bestowed upon him in 1987, exempted him from dismissal for any reason. He contended that the department’s bylaws constituted a contract and did not allow the organization to expel him.
But the Montgomery County Circuit Court disagreed. Judge Louise G. Scrivener said bylaws are not a formal contract and the organization was entitled to dismiss its members.
Chisholm then appealed to the Court of Special Appeals, which upheld the lower court’s decision.
In an opinion written by Judge Dale R. Cathell, the three- judge panel stated that organizations such as the Hyattstown Volunteer Fire Department may expel members as they choose, subject only to their bylaws. And in the specific case, the opinion noted, “lifetime member” is defined as one who will not be dismissed for failing to pay dues, but is still subject to disciplinary action. Chisholm joined the department in 1967 and has served as its treasurer, secretary, vice president and most recently, as its president. Neither he nor lawyers in the case could be reached for comment Tuesday. -30-