Published: Thursday, April 12, 2007
Fire official wants trustees to toss out vote against chief
The personal attacks were published in the newspaper.
By MARY GRZEBIENIAK
NEW SPRINGFIELD A fire department officer apologized to Springfield Township Fire Chief Brian Hughes for allegations he made against the chief in a recent letter.
Matt Gebhardt, a lieutenant at the New Springfield Fire Station, also asked the trustees Wednesday night to throw out a vote of no-confidence vote presented to them at the March meeting.
Gebhardt apologized to Hughes and to his wife, especially for the allegation of sexual impropriety included in the letter, which he said "wasn't worded properly" and "wasn't fair to Brian."
"We weren't interested in this being made public in The Vindicator," he said, adding he thought it would be handled privately as a personnel matter.
He said that firefighters were taking a confidence vote on Hughes, and "we were told we had to have reasons, we took the concerns of what the guys were telling us."
Gebhardt said he hopes the firefighters, Hughes and the trustees can sit down and discuss their differences "and hash them out in a reasonable manner."
But another firefighter, Capt. Don Wharry of the New Middletown Fire Station, said the vote was a lie, because firefighters were not shown a list of allegations against Hughes, which was included in an envelope and presented to trustees with the vote.
Firefighters, he said, were simply told to vote on whether they had confidence in Hughes' job performance.
"This group of people came to each station and read a three-line paragraph: Do you have confidence yes or no? When it comes out in the paper we found out they stuck in another letter."
A call for action
He called for the discipline or expulsion of those who put the letter in the envelope, stating, "They're blatantly just trying to get rid of him."
Trustee Gerald Guterba said after the meeting the trustees were "caught off guard" by the letter because they thought the envelope contained only a tally of the no-confidence vote.
"We're going to sit down and investigate," he said. "You can't have hostile firemen. They'll have to work together better and tighter than this."
Hughes said after the meeting, "Fire personnel were misled by certain individuals, and it is a shame that politics are politics."
The letter was made public two weeks after the March 14 meeting. Of some 87 eligible firefighters and EMS workers, 40 cast a no-confidence vote and three said they had confidence in the chief.
The unsigned letter accompanying the tally asked trustees to evaluate Hughes' job performance and made 13 accusations ranging from lack of leadership to poor accountability for outside work hours.
Trustees also handled these matters:
Awarded a bid for paving New Waterford Road between state Route 617 and the county line to Butch & McCree Paving, Hillsville, Pa., who offered the low bid of $55.45 per ton.
Heard Trustee Bob Orr say the Mahoning County prosecutor's office has advised them to pay the deductible for resident Paul Cralle, whose mobile home was damaged earlier this year when a township emergency vehicle struck it. Orr said Cralle must make a claim with his own insurance company, and if his home is not brought back to the way it was, the township can invoke its moral obligation clause and reimburse him an additional $2,500.