I can’t believe they call this NEWS when once again it appears to be another paid ad!.
MADISON TOWNSHIP — Although Madison Township firefighter Chris Ott said he was satisfied with the outcome of his disciplinary hearing, he and his attorney strongly disapproved of the investigation.
Thursday night, an hour-long private hearing took place at the trustees’ office regarding allegations that Ott cheated on a certification test in December 2010.
Eight Madison firefighters were accused of cheating, or assisting in cheating, on the test. Only one is left to be disciplined.
“All matters and charges are completely resolved (involving Chris Ott),” trustee vice chairman Dan Fletcher said at the end of the hearing. “Firefighter Ott will receive a 96-hour suspension for insubordination.”
Ott, whose suspension will begin mid-June, said he didn’t do any of the things that were alleged.
His attorney, Jon Schaefer, said, “Like Chris Ott, (other firefighters) also took suspensions they didn’t want to take, but they didn’t want to spend money to fight them. It’s a very expensive process to fight it.”
Fletcher and trustee Tom Craft represented the township during the hearing, after board of trustees chairman David Spain was asked to leave because of a conflict of interest.
“Are you going to be participating and at what level?” Schaefer asked Spain. “Are you sitting here as a board member, as an investigator, as a prosecutor? I object to you being here when you conducted the investigation.”
Schaefer said Spain should not have conducted the investigation. He pointed to section 505.38 in the Ohio Revised Code which states “the board shall designate the fire chief or a private citizen to investigate the conduct and prepare the necessary charges in conformity with those sections.”
Spain said his investigation was approved by the Richland County Prosecutor’s Office and the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
Schaefer said that claim is inaccurate.
“The board, through me, as a previous fire investigator, worked with the fire chief to conduct the investigation,” Spain said. “During that entire time, (the chief) was actually in charge and I called him on 99 percent of the things I did.”
Chief Chris Niswander denied he conducted the investigation. He said Spain gathered information and relayed it.
The chief said he compiled the data, but that was the extent of his role.
Niswander said he did not sit in on any interviews.
When asked why he wanted to conduct the investigation, Spain responded, “I’d rather not comment on that right now.”
When Fletcher was presented with a copy of the Ohio law, he repeated twice: “This is just the ORC and you can take it for what it is.”
Spain said he was upset with the outcome of Thursday’s hearing.
“The more I think about this the madder I get,” he said. “The insubordination, as I see it, was because of the defaming, slanderous statements from Chris Ott made about a well-respected captain at the fire department. During the interview he made those statements.”
Spain said Thursday’s hearing will have a ripple effect throughout “Testgate.”
“One fireman (Donald Kunkle) was already disciplined on substantial evidence,” Spain said. “In his own words, he assisted Chris Ott on one test that he allegedly cheated on.”
Spain said Ott took two levels of certification tests.
“(Kunkle), who has already been disciplined for assisting Chris Ott in cheating on the lesser of the two tests, I believe can now request reconsideration for his discipline,” Spain said. “If they’re saying (Ott) didn’t cheat, then I believe this guy has a case.
“Also, the final fireman who was going to be disciplined for assisting Chris Ott to cheat on the lesser test should have his charges dropped.
“How do I feel about this? I think this is terrible. This is a slap in the face to the good firemen who came forward with information in this investigation. (Fletcher and Craft) have deflated Testgate. I said to them (after the hearing): ‘You guys just compromised Testgate.’ ”
Spain said he believes his fellow trustees were so anxious to put Testgate behind them, “they’d just agree to anything.”
Later, Fletcher said he was shocked by Spain’s reaction.
“I’m very confused because (Spain) appeared to be happy with the vote at the hearing,” Fletcher said.
Trustees would have to talk in executive session about dropping any charges against the final firefighter, Fletcher said. He also denied trustees are trying to put Testgate behind them.
“That’s not true at all. I had a basis for my discipline based on prior disciplinary actions throughout the department,” Fletcher said. “I’m pleased with the outcome, and Mr. Kraft is pleased.
“I love working with Mr. Spain. He’s a very passionate man and we’ll work through this.”