Parents, kids pull out of Mad River Twp. Fire cadet program

Mad River Twp. and Enon families are pulling out of the Mad River Twp. Fire and EMS department’s cadet program.

Those families say problems at the top of the chain have trickled down to affect the young cadets who were just beginning to learn the ropes of the job.

Alison Jordan’s son, 15-year-old Steven Jordan, submitted a resignation letter after the men who were mentors to him in the cadet program walked away from the department last month as part of a mass resignation.

Her son joined the cadets two years ago after his dad died.

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In his resignation letter, Steven Jordan writes, “My mom told me I had two choices. I could rise above the hardship and pain or let it destroy me. I decided to look into the cadet program at the firehouse.”

Alison Jordan said her son not only found a career he was passionate about, but he also gained a surrogate father in former Lt. Mike Gardone, one of the cadet advisers.

“He never looked back. It was the best thing ever. His grades soared,” she said. “He found confidence, hope. It was a brand new Steven.”

Last month, at least a dozen Mad River Twp. employees left their jobs after an independent consultant hired by the township did not recommend firing Fire Chief Tim Wendling, Assistant Fire Chief Jackie Ashworth nor Capt. Kurt Werner.

It was alleged that the three knew about sexual misconduct allegations about former Mad River Twp. firefighter Steve Schaefer before he was hired.

Those allegations involved a former co-worker of Schaefer’s at Bethel Twp. Fire and EMS.

Schaefer eventually was fired from his job at Mad River, but he was never charged with a crime.

An independent consultant hired by Mad River Twp. did not recommend dismissing fire leadership. An investigation found some evidence that department leaders were aware of Schaefer’s past, but all three passed lie detector tests when they claimed they did not know.

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Jessica Thornton’s daughter, Abby, also was in the cadet program as a way to spend time with her dad.

Nick Thornton was one of the firefighters who left the department, and it was then that Jessica pulled her daughter of the program.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable with her being there anymore,” she said. “We have to show them to stand up for what’s right and I think this has been a good example.”

Jessica Thornton said her daughter was one of seven cadets at the time when she was in the program.

Mad River Twp. Trustee Kathy Estep said on Wednesday the program is still continuing, and there are four cadets enrolled.

Estep said Wendling has taken over the responsibility of overseeing the program, as well as other advisers from the department.

Cadets not only learn the basics of firefighting and medical service, but also teamwork and responsibility.

Estep said since the mass resignation, the department has been working to make several changes, including to hiring practices, checks on department policies and payroll, better communication and mandatory sexual harassment and hostile work environment training.

The department has hired 16 people since the resignations, and Estep said that number includes some who have returned to the department.

Estep said from May 21 to June 12, the department went on 130 runs, in which the average time from dispatch to arrival on scene was 7 minutes and 8 seconds.

“I want to assure the public that our runs are being covered,” she said.

The department is hoping to rebuild the cadet program.

4 — cadets remaining in Mad River Twp. program

16 — new hires since mass resignation in May

130 — fire and EMS runs from May 21 to June 12

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