BRACEVILLE TOWNSHIP Judge upholds the dismissal of fire chief
The judge also lifted an order that prohibited trustees from hiring a permanent fire chief.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- Despite saying he had the impression that the Braceville fire chief has a desire to lead an outstanding department, a Trumbull County Common Pleas Court judge still upheld a decision by Braceville Township trustees to fire him.
Judge Andrew D. Logan issued the ruling Friday, affirming the action of trustees who fired Raymond Dietz, of Braceville Robinson Road S.W., on April 23, 2001, after he served 19 years -- 15 years as chief -- with the department. Neither Deitz nor trustees could not be reached for comment on the judge's decision.
Atty. Gilbert W.R. Rucker III, who represents Dietz, declined to comment Friday, saying he had not seen the ruling.
Reasons for firing
In a three-page decision issued in 2001, trustees said Deitz failed to conduct regular inspections of fire hoses, pumps and apparatus as required by law; failed to properly schedule, provide and conduct in-service training; failed to properly service, maintain and repair vehicles; and has endangered himself, other firefighters, and his daughter by bringing his daughter to emergency scenes.
The trustees' decision came a few days after an administrative hearing was held. Trustees stated in the decision that Dietz attended the April 16 hearing but was not represented by legal counsel.
The administrative hearing was held after a five-month investigation by Atty. Stanley Elkins. Trustees noted in their decision that they had hired Elkins to investigate Dietz.
Dietz appealed the firing in May that year, saying since Elkins works for the Trumbull County Prosecutor's office, he could not be impartial; that the charges have nothing to do with his duties as fire chief; and that the charges were filed in an untimely manner.
In his ruling, Judge Logan wrote that while Elkins is now employed in the prosecutor's office, he wasn't when he conducted the investigation. He said there was no evidence showing Elkins' ability to be fair was compromised.
Logan also ruled that while the charges were not filed at the first opportunity, "the charges allege a continuing course of conduct. The court finds that the action was timely filed under these specific circumstances."
He also wrote he did not think Dietz wanted to do anything other than run an outstanding department, saying even Dietz's critics said "this is an above-average fire department."
As part of the ruling, Judge Logan also lifted an injunction against the trustees that prohibited them from hiring a permanent fire chief pending the appeal.