2012-03-17 / News

Thorn Township fire chief suspended

By Scott Rawdon

THORNVILLE – Thorn Township Trustees have confirmed that Thorn Township Fire Department Chief Duane Moore has been indefinitely suspended, but are tight-lipped on the details until they meet with the township’s attorney, county prosecutor Joe Flautt, to discuss the situation.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” said Trustee Bob Coleman, who added that Moore’s been under suspension since Feb. 27. “We’re going to meet with the attorney tonight,” said Coleman Wednesday.

In the meantime, assistant fire chief Rob Sands is serving as interim fire chief. Coleman said the township’s attorney advised him not to release any more information regarding the reason or reasons for Moore’s suspension until trustees could meet with him. Coleman said Moore hired an attorney to represent his interests.

Although trustees honored their attorney’s advice not to comment on Moore’s suspension, minutes from trustee meetings (accessible on the township’s web site) reference strained communication between Moore and trustees. According to minutes of the January 11, meeting, Fiscal Officer Billie Dearlove received a sealed letter addressed to the trustees, which she presented to Trustee Chairman Dale Factor. He read the letter, which was from resident Ed Corns. In the letter, Corns questioned the legality of a checking account the fire department has as well as allegations of meetings between Trustee Factor, former Trustee Charles Boring and Moore regarding the checking account. According to the minutes, Corns encouraged the trustees to initiate an investigation into the matter. The checking account in question is registered under Thorn Township’s tax identification number and it was determined that this is not compliant as the fire department represents itself as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization.

According to the minutes from a Jan. 30 meeting, trustees held a special meeting to discuss some issues with Moore. The minutes state that Trustee Rick Wilson questioned Moore on the qualifications of the fire chief’s position in the current Thorn Township Fire Department’s by-laws. Wilson wanted to know if he had all the stated qualifications. Moore wanted to know what qualifications he did not meet.

Wilson recited the stated qualifications and Moore stated that he met them all except for holding a basic EMT card. Wilson asked Moore why he hasn’t obtained the EMT certification. Moore stated that according to the Ohio Revised Code he did not need it. Wilson said the fire departments by-laws require the EMT certification. Moore stated that the fire department does not follow the by-laws, but rather the “Standard Operating Guidelines” and “Standard Operating Principles.”

According to the minutes, Coleman and Moore discussed the trustees’ role in the fire department. Moore said that he is in charge of the fire department and all its members answer to him. Moore said he is responsible for anything that takes place within the department. Trustees, Moore said, are only responsible for funding the department.

According to the minutes, Wilson asked Moore if he called Lowe’s to replace the trustees on the charge card account with himself. Moore said he never called Lowe’s and changed anything and he has never seen a Lowe’s credit card. Wilson said Dearlove brought the issue to their attention and he wondered why she would state something like that in a public meeting if it weren’t true. Moore stated he didn’t know and reiterated that he never changed anything relating to a Lowe’s charge card.

According to the minutes, Wilson wanted to know if Moore followed the by-laws when appointing all officers. Moore said that he is the one who appoints officers. Wilson said Factor determined that according to the department’s by-laws, trustees are to approve all officers. Factor said Jeremy Weekly was serving as captain for some time, before trustees approved his appointment to that position.

The minutes show that trustees continued to question Moore on several topics, but the discussion eventually returned to the Lowe’s charge card. Wilson said the Lowe’s account still puzzled him and he wondered why Dearlove would say that the name on the account was changed if it weren’t.

Moore said that he did not take the trustees names off of the account, he had no reason to do so, and he didn’t. Wilson asked Moore why Dearlove would lie. Moore said that he wasn’t lying about the issue. Wilson asked if Moore had ever called anyone that the township does business with and changed anything. Moore said “no,” adding that no one from the department can buy anything without his approval and nothing can be bought without a purchase order.

Wilson questioned Moore again and clarified the question, saying, “Have you ever called anyone or any account and asked them to change the way it is to be billed or paid?” Moore said he has not.

Wilson then requested that Deborah Morgan, who was substituting for Dearlove and taking meeting minutes, read the question back to him. He also requested Moore’s answer to be read back as well. Morgan stated that Wilson asked Moore if he ever called anyone or any account and asked them to change the way it is to be billed or paid and the chief’s answer was no, he has not.

Coleman said Wednesday that he hoped to have more information regarding the suspension available to the public following the meeting with the township’s attorney.

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