The Mad River Township Board of Trustees met in executive session for over an hour with two representatives from Clemens-Nelson who were hired to investigate the administration of the emergency services department during the May 20, 2019 meeting.
In a statement read by one of the representatives he noted that “there was not enough evidence under Ohio Revised Code” to warrant charges against Chief Tim Wendling, Assistant Chief Jackie Ashworth and Captain Kurt Werner as it related to the hiring of Steve Schaefer.
It was alleged that the three knew about problems with Schaefer related to a sexual assault on another member of the department at a previous Clark County emergency services department prior to his hiring.
Despite hours of interviews with members of the department and the Bethel Township Fire Chief Jacob King and others, the investigator could not make a recommendation.
According to statements made by Bob McClure and Kathy Estep following questions from the audience, the trustees refused to comment on what other findings are in the report. Trustee Catanzaro did not respond to any of the comments or questions raised by residents at the meeting.
“We will thoroughly analyze this report” said McClure regarding questions as to whether or not changes would be made in the department leadership.
Residents asked for copies of the report and McClure stated that they would be available following a complete review by the trustees who received the report during the executive session. No timeline was given nor would the trustees commit to any action following their review.
The trustees were asked if members of the department could be dismissed under the “at will” rules in Ohio, they stated that the Chief and Assistant Chief fall under Ohio Revised Code. They were unclear about other members.
According to information obtained by the Enon Eagle prior to the start of the investigation, allegations of hostile work environment and other concerns were raised by employees who tendered their resignations starting in November 2018.
Trustees would not comment on whether or not the allegations had also been addressed by the three month long investigation.
Following the end of the meeting, approximately a dozen members with extensive training and some with well over a dozen years of service to the community dropped their badges and keys on the table with trustee Catanzaro and McClure present.
The Eagle confirmed that many of those who resigned are fire fighters and paramedics with extensive training and experience.
The department head has repeatedly stated that he has members “in training”, however none have the years of experience that is possessed by those who resigned on Monday.
Trustees refused to comment on the next steps for the department as it was clear they were not able to immediately digest the magnitude of the resignations and the immediate impact on the services to the community.
Residents have seen an increase in the number of mutual aid responses from Bethel Township and Fairborn since the resignations began last year.
It is believed that additional resignations will be forthcoming for those who could not attend the meeting.
Some of those who resigned were scheduled to work shifts on Tuesday and throughout the week. No information was immediately available as to how the administration will handle the workload this week or in the coming weeks.
The department is not a paid department and relies on individuals who also have full time jobs with other departments and businesses outside of the community.
The trustees will meet in regular session on the first Monday of June starting at 7:30 pm.