Despite accusations, fire chief has trustees’ support
The Lake Township trustees Tuesday re-affirmed their support for Bruce Moritz, township fire chief, after hearing a resident say some members of the fire department contacted him to voice their concerns about how the chief runs the department.
Randy Saint John, of E. Freedom Drive, told the trustees eight firefighters contacted him via email with their grievances, saying they feared repercussions if they took their complaints to command officers and the trustees.
Saint John told the trustees he would provide them with copies of the email which he read at the conclusion of the trustees’ regular meeting. He read an account of a recent departmental meeting at fire station 2 during which the chief allegedly screamed at several firefighters and told them they could leave their badges and keys on the table if they didn’t like his management of the department.
Another accused the chief of “micro-managing” emergency scenes and questioned why the trustees didn’t hire someone from within the department to be chief. The firefighters also questioned his hiring when he is close to retirement age.
Saint John said he was speaking as a taxpayer and resident with concerns for his family’s safety. Voicing their concerns over the situation, he said, does “bring it to light.”
Chief Moritz was in Columbus Tuesday for a meeting of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association and wasn’t present for the trustees’ meeting.
He was hired by the trustees in August of last year to replace former chief Todd Walters, who resigned. Prior to being hired by Lake Township, Moritz was the chief of the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District.
Ironically, the trustees initially asked Moritz for assistance in preparing a job description for a full-time chief position when they began the search for a replacement for Walters, who was part-time.
Richard Welling, a trustee, called the accusations a “cowardly attack” on the chief, noting Moritz wasn’t at the meeting to address them.
Trustees Melanie Bowen and Jeff Pettit also said Moritz has their support.
“He was hired to do a job and hopefully he will continue,” Pettit said.
Because the complaints were anonymous, they may also be baseless, said Mark Hummer, township police chief and administrator.
Mike Hornyak, deputy chief of the department, told Saint John the complaints should be taken up the chain of command.
“These guys are hurting themselves,” he said and questioned whether the accusations were true.
Hummer also said the Ohio Revised Code provides protection for volunteer firefighters involved in contentious personnel matters.
He said he talks daily with the fire chief.
“He’s trying to put it together and has my support,” he said.
There are about 44 firefighters in the department, according to Vicki Schwamberger, fiscal officer.