Ohio fire dept. responders resign amidst leadership complaints

Five Mad River Twp. Fire/EMS Department responders resigned after firefighter-paramedic Michael Newkirk claimed leaders were intimidating and hostile

By Parker Perry
Springfield News-Sun

MAD RIVER TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A complaint filed with Mad River Twp. Fire/EMS Department leadership accused the administration of violating labor laws, public record laws and being intimidating and hostile to employees.

The complaint filed by Mad River Twp. Firefighter and Paramedic Michael Newkirk on Nov. 15 was followed by several employees of the department resigning, according to records obtained by the Springfield News-Sun.

In one resignation, a former employee of 13 years says he is no longer proud to be part of the department.

“In recent years, upper leadership has deteriorated to one of fear and intimidation, based in politics and ‘the buddy system,’ rather than education and leadership skills,” the resignation letter of Cory Scanlan says. “It is a shame that I have watched this department ignore its members in favor of personal gains.”

“Sadly, no apparent changes were made, and the fear tactics continue to this day,” the letter says.

Mad River Twp. Fire Chief Tim Wendling didn’t return multiple messages seeking comment this week.

In a response to Newkirk, Mad River Twp. Asst. Chief Jackie Ashworth, wrote in a letter to him that the complaints failed to meet the requirements of a timely filing, but that his complaints would be explored through operational channels.

“…The leadership of the department is committed to listening to employees, treating everyone fairly and consistently, working safely, striving for excellence and serving the citizens of Mad River Twp. professionally and with compassion,” the letter says.

Newkirk’s documents list six complaints. . They are:

  • Failure to safeguard protected healthcare information
  • Creation and maintaining individuals in the officer in charge program that have no qualifications or certifications that allow for them to function as an incident commander.
  • Violating the Fair Standards Act by requiring part-time employees to perform unpaid paid on-call shifts without compensation.
  • Lack of accountability/ transparency by the use of private emails for official use
  • Mad River Township dispatch currently does not meet industry standards and state law regarding dispatch center requirements that cause increased dispatch time and increase chances of catastrophic 911 system failure in Mad River Twp
  • Fostering and maintaining an environment of leadership led by intimidation and hostility toward its employees.

Five employees of the department have resigned since the complaint was filed, according to the response to the newspaper’s public records request. Newkirk and Scanlan resigned along with Jimmy Carpenter, Chelsea Brooks and Michael Halloran.

Carpenter said in his resignation letter he is leaving because he got another job while Halloran didn’t indicate a specific reason for his departure.

“I want to thank Mad River Twp. Fire/EMS for this opportunity, training, and experience I’ve gained since I started in July 2001,” Halloran’s letter says.

Brooks wrote in her letter that she had asked not to be scheduled when another employee was on the clock. It is unclear from the letter why she didn’t want to work with that employee.

“I asked several times that we don’t overlap on the schedule and that’s still happening,” Brooks said. “I am thankful for the time I worked here so thank you.”

However, Scanlan’s letters has the most information in it.

“I have witnessed firsthand what occurs when department members voice concerns or express opinions dissimilar from upper leadership; they are met with unjust criticism, scheduled hours being cut and disciplinary action,” the resignation letter says. “This is true even when no policies or procedures are broken and concerns are expressed in a professional, fair manner. Members who have had the courage to speak up and file formal complaints are met with hostility or dismissal.”

Scanlan says he can’t continue to work at the fire department.

“Morally, I cannot and will not continue to associate with this department,” Scanlan’s letter says. “I became a firefighter and paramedic to serve my community with honesty, integrity and skill and this department clearly no longer share these values.

Attempts by the Springfield News-Sun to reach Scanlan weren’t successful. An email to the Township trustees also wasn’t returned.

Copyright 2019 Springfield News-Sun

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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