Mad River Twp. and Enon residents packed the local firehouse during a regular trustee meeting Monday night to express concerns they have following an internal investigation into hiring practices at the firehouse.
The Mad River Twp. Trustees responded with a statement that they did not intend to talk about the report.
“The Clemans-Nelson report speaks for itself and it concluded the investigation,” the trustees said in a statement. “The investigation is over and we’re not going to litigate this issue through public comments. We have said that we are looking at resolving some issues found in the report and that is what we are doing. We won’t be addressing the report moving forward.”
The trustees have told this news organization that they are unable to take further action because the internal investigation resulted in no administrative charges. Charges would have prompted a public termination hearing in which the trustees would act as a de-facto jury.
Because no administrative charges were lodged, the process is over, they stated.
And while the trustees refused to talk about the report, it didn’t stop residents from voicing their concerns.
“Any other organization in the country would never have accepted the workplace harassment that employee X experienced,” a woman said during the comment from the public hearing. “You three (trustees) are responsible for a hostile work environment and have done nothing to improve that except to let other people walk away and hire a bunch of other people. That is not how workplace harassment should be handled.”
Employee X was mentioned in the investigation report as a former employee who resigned once former Lt. Steven Schaefer was hired at the firehouse. The employee previously filed sexual misconduct allegations against Schaefer at Bethel Twp.
Employee X told investigators that she told Mad River Twp. fire leadership about the allegation, but he was hired anyway.
Mad River Twp. Trustee Bob McClure told the Springfield News-Sun Tuesday morning that he did listen to the comments and concerns of residents and the trustees are taking them seriously.
“They wanted to keep talking about it and we gave them the opportunity,” he said. “We are looking into things that the report did outline. Could there be changes down the road? Absolutely.”
McClure said the trustees have not asked anyone to resign and declined to comment further.
The investigation was launched after this news organization began questioning the employment of former Lt. Steven Schaefer. Schaefer resigned from Mad River Twp., but questions remained whether Mad River Twp. fire leadership knew about the allegations before they hired him.
Schaefer did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
The internal investigation report found no administrative charges should be brought against Mad River Twp. Fire Chief Tim Wendling or assistant chief Jackie Ashworth.
However, the report also said Bethel Twp. Fire Chief Jacob King told Mad River Twp. fire leadership about the allegations before they hired Schaefer. It also says New Carlisle Fire Chief Steve Trusty told investigators that Wendling asked him if Schaefer was accused of sexual misconduct when he worked at New Carlisle during a reference check.
Wendling and Ashworth both deny they were ever told about the misconduct allegations. Wendling, Ashworth and King all took and passed lie detector tests, according to the investigation report.
The findings prompted at least 12 firehouse employees to resign between May 20 and May 21. They include captains, lieutenants, crew leaders, paramedics and fire inspectors who made up up a large portion of the fire department’s staff.
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