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Fire chief to be investigated again

In lawsuit, Leist alleges that Mad River Twp. trustees defamed him.

The embattled fire chief here who has an active defamation lawsuit against his employer is the subject of another investigation after trustees unanimously designated an attorney from a management consulting firm to look into his conduct.

Mad River Twp. trustees announced Tuesday afternoon during a special meeting that Cincinnati attorney Kelly Babcock would investigate the conduct of Chief David Leist, pursuant to the “appointment of firefighting personnel” section of the Ohio Revised Code, according to the draft minutes.

No details about what conduct he’s accused of were made public Tuesday. Trustees President Robert McClure Jr. declined to comment on what would be investigated, but he said it would begin immediately and he hoped it would conclude in a timely manner.

Babcock is a shareholder and account manager with the Columbus-based management consulting firm Clemans Nelson & Associates, according to the firm’s website — the same firm the township contracted with to review and update its policy manuals — and an attorney with Babcock and Geary in the Cincinnati area.

The Springfield News-Sun was unable to reach Babcock for comment by phone Tuesday afternoon.

Leist deferred all questions to his attorney, Mark J. Bamberger, who was unable to be reached by phone or email.

Township attorney Dawn Frick from Miamisburg law firm Surdyk Dowd and Turner declined to comment.

“I can’t comment while an investigation is pending because it’s just that — an investigation,” she said.

Earlier this month. Leist and his attorney filed a defamation suit in Clark County Common Pleas Court against the fire department, the township and Trustees Joe Catanzaro, Kathy Estep and McClure.

It demands monetary compensation in excess of $25,000 for charges of “defamation per se” and “defamatory slander” stemming from claims made by unnamed persons orally and in an informal written report compiled by German Twp. Fire Chief Tim Holman last year.

That report indicated Leist’s performance had been lacking in 14 areas, particularly in equipment care, his own conduct and staff relations.

As a result, he was placed on paid administrative leave and unpaid suspension after the investigation, but was later reinstated with back pay because, trustees said, no formal charges were lodged against him as required by the ORC.

His suit alleged the defendants knowingly made false statements.

It wasn’t immediately clear how much the township is paying for its contract with Clemans Nelson & Associates for the policy manual updates, nor how much it would pay for the investigation by Babcock. Contracts requested by the News-Sun late Tuesday were not available before deadline.

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