Lake Twp. heats up over fire chief
Written by DEBBIE ROGERS Sentinel Staff Writer
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 11:07
MILLBURY - A few Lake Township firefighters are flaming mad over what they say is poor treatment by the new chief.
But the way they voiced those apparent concerns infuriated the Lake Township Trustees.
At Tuesday's meeting, township resident Randy Saint John read an email he said he received from some firefighters who feared retaliation if they approached the trustees.
The email, Saint John said, accused Fire Chief Bruce Moritz, who was hired in August, of yelling at, micro-managing and not respecting them. They also said the trustees should have hired a chief from within the department and that Moritz will leave within two years when he can retire.
Saint John said the firefighters were worried about safety issues in the department and morale.
"You don't have to answer me," Saint John told the trustees. "They just asked me to read this because they are afraid of repercussions."
The trustees fired back, though, saying Saint John reading the email and the firefighters circumventing the chain of command was inappropriate.
"I find it very sad," said Trustee Chairwoman Melanie Bowen.
Deputy Chief Mike Hornyak, who had been interim chief before Moritz was hired, said firefighters were spreading untrue rumors.
"These guys are hurting themselves," he said.
Hornyak said Moritz, who was at a state firefighters' meeting in Columbus, has recently talked to firefighters about using the chain of command when they have complaints or comments.
Saint John said he was at the meeting as a taxpayer concerned about fire safety.
"For the sake of us, fix it," he said.
Bowen said all of the trustees have phones and they should have been contacted by the firefighters. But Saint John said they were afraid to call.
"That is absolutely ridiculous," Bowen said, adding that this format did not help.
"No, it doesn't," Saint John said, "but it does bring it to light."
Trustee Richard Welling said a dedicated firefighter with a problem would follow procedure.
"Maybe if you're a troublemaker, you need to leave," he said.
Police Chief Mark Hummer, who is also the township administrator, said the channels that should be followed start with the battalion chief, then deputy chief, then fire chief, Hummer and the trustees. Each step should be documented.
"It's not fixable if you don't follow the chain of command," Hummer said.
The meeting then disintegrated into yelling and screaming with Bowen banging the gavel and Hummer ushering Saint John into the lobby. The trustees then adjourned into an executive session that had been planned.
After the 90-minute executive session, the trustees reiterated their support for Moritz.
"We all do stand firmly behind him," said Trustee Jeff Pettit.
The department has been rocked over the last year. In February, 2013, the former fire chief and two paramedics resigned after an intoxicated, off-duty police officer was treated with saline from one of the fire departments. All of the people involved had been attending the wedding of the police officer's brother, who is a township firefighter.
Hornyak was interim fire chief until Moritz was hired this summer.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 March 2014 13:47