The Blade/Jetta Fraser
Rossford fire Chief James Verbosky has been suspended for five days after he falsified a patient transport report, city officials said.
Mayor Neil MacKinnon III decided Thursday to suspend Chief Verbosky without pay, effective Friday. Mayor MacKinnon and Rossford administrator Ed Ciecka said the suspension stems from a Feb. 14 incident, during which Chief Verbosky and two members of the fire department were transporting a patient to a hospital.
After the patient run, Chief Verbosky and one of the firefighters signed a patient transfer report; according to the mayor and city administrator, Chief Verbosky also signed the name of the firefighter who was driving the emergency vehicle. That firefighter is Patrick Yoder, who according to city officials is a nephew of the fire chief.
City officials say there doesn't appear to be a financial motive for the falsification. “We are all baffled by it,” Mr. Ciecka said.
Mayor MacKinnon said he believes Chief Verbosky is “a great chief and a great guy,” and said he took responsibility for his actions and apologized. The mayor said he believes the falsification was a matter of sloppiness and not ill intent.
“[The suspension] wasn't something that I obviously wanted to do or enjoyed doing,” Mayor MacKinnon said, “but him being the chief I thought it warranted a suspension because of the careless reporting.”
Chief Verbosky did not return a message left on his cell phone Friday requesting comment.
City officials said Assistant Chief Josh Drouard was informed of the incident several weeks ago by firefighter union officials, but was given few details. Last week, a Rossford firefighter told city officials that a fellow firefighter had taken a report from the department and may have made a copy.
That report was about the February incident, and was how Mayor MacKinnon learned of the matter, he said. An investigation into that firefighter’s actions is ongoing, the mayor said.
Chief Verbosky has held the position since 1998 and been with the department for about three decades.
He has never been formally disciplined before, Mr. Ciecka said, but the falsified report was not the only time his actions have been scrutinized in recent days. Last week, he was ordered out of the Rossford police station after a confrontation with a juvenile, city officials said.
The boy had been detained March 13 after he left Rossford High School without permission. Police found him and held him because there was a concern about his safety, and because officers were waiting for guidance from prosecutors, Police Chief Glenn Goss said.
Officers handcuffed the boy in an interview room after he attempted to hurt himself, and the Rossford Fire Department was called to monitor his safety, Chief Goss said. Chief Verbosky was among staff members who responded. The boy became verbally abusive toward the fire chief, and video of the incident appeared to show Chief Verbosky may have baited him, Mr. Ciecka said.
“The chief [and the boy] exchanged some words back and forth,” Chief Goss said. “I think the juvenile felt taunted by that.”
A police sergeant told Chief Verbosky to leave, and he did so voluntarily, Chief Goss said.
“The case was handled appropriately by the officer in charge at the time and the chief backed off immediately,” Mr. Ciecka said. “I don’t see it as a major problem.”
The boy’s guardian did not file a complaint over the incident, Chief Goss said, and Chief Verbosky was not disciplined.
Chief Verbosky is just the latest area fire chief to be disciplined in recent weeks. Jerusalem Township Fire Chief Harold Stanton was fired Tuesday after township trustees determined he had allowed a resident, who is not a firefighter, to act as a township firefighter, to use township fire equipment, and to assist the fire department during fire and EMS runs. Mr. Stanton filed notice Wednesday that he intends to appeal his termination in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
In late February, Lake Township Fire Chief Todd Walters and two other firefighters resigned amid a township police investigation into intravenous-fluid bags of saline being taken from a department fire hall to treat an intoxicated off-duty police officer.