THE BLADE/LORI KING
The Jerusalem Township trustees Wednesday voted unanimously to appeal a Lucas County judge’s ruling that they reinstate the terminated fire chief and reimburse him for all lost wages and benefits.
John Borell, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor representing the township, said the appeal would be filed with the Ohio 6th District Court of Appeals within 30 days.
On Aug. 19, Common Pleas Judge Dean Mandros ruled that the firing of Harold Stanton violated the chief’s constitutional rights and the township’s personnel policies and procedures.
Mr. Stanton was fired ostensibly for repeatedly allowing an unauthorized person — township resident Jim Gray — to be at the scene of fires, assisting the firefighters. Trustees voted 3-0 in March to terminate the chief, saying he allowed Mr. Gray to act as a township firefighter, to use township fire equipment, and to assist the fire department during fire and EMS runs “at least five times over the past three years.”
The trustees claimed the chief’s conduct constituted misfeasance, malfeasance, nonfeasance, and misconduct in the conduct of his official duties.
But Judge Mandros found the three trustees did not consider the chief’s distinguished 25-year career, as required by the township’s personnel manual, when deciding to fire him. The judge also found the trustees’ role as investigator, prosecutor, witness, and judge violated Chief Stanton’s right to due process.
Mr. Stanton attended the trustees’ special meeting Wednesday “for the entertainment value,” he said, considering it a foregone conclusion they would appeal. He said the real reason they fired him was that he complained about the commingling of dedicated fire funds with the township’s general fund used to pay salaries and benefits. David Bench, trustees’ chairman, and Mr. Borell denied any funds had been misused.
R. Kevin Greenfield, Mr. Stanton’s attorney, said his client planned to file a civil rights lawsuit against the township in U.S. District Court next week.
He said the trustees should have permitted Mr. Stanton to return to his job while they pursued their appeal. “That way, they at least would enjoy the benefit of his services. How are the citizens of Jerusalem Township benefiting from this?”
Mr. Stanton, 57, is a Toledo firefighter. He was a captain in the Ottawa Hills Fire Department when it merged with Toledo’s nearly three years ago.
He said he was paid $20,000 annually as the township’s chief.
Contact Carl Ryan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6095.