July 25, 2016

Partly cloudy

Hearing continued for Lodi fire chief

MEDINA — A temporary restraining order hearing Friday on behalf of former Lodi Fire Chief Andrew Wurstner ended up delaying a hearing before Lodi Village Council over his fate with the Fire Department.

Lawyers for Wurstner and the village presented arguments before Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier on Friday over Wurstner’s request for a temporary restraining order to halt a Council hearing set for Monday. The hearing would decide whether he should be reinstated as chief or ousted from the department altogether.

Instead of the restraining order, Collier suggested Wurstner’s attorney ask for a continuance of the Council hearing, to which the village agreed, Mayor Dan Goodrow said.

“(Collier) didn’t grant (the temporary restraining order) because we have a remedy through the Ohio Revised Code, which is to grant a continuance,” he said.

The Council hearing now is set for March 28 and Collier set an injunction hearing for March 16 at 1 p.m., Wurstner’s attorney, Steve Bailey, said.

Wurstner could be reinstated as fire chief at the injunction hearing, in which both sides will present evidence and witnesses, Bailey said.

Both sides agree the outcome could rest on whether Wurstner’s probationary status was in accordance with Ohio law.

Wurstner was never taken off probation, which he was placed on when hired as chief in February 2009. Typically, a probationary period lasts one year.

“I feel that it is reasonable to assume that employees can be any probationary status regardless of job or job title,” Goodrow said. “They can be taken off for performance, or it can be maintained.”

Bailey said there is no probationary status for fire chiefs in the Ohio Revised Code, although there is one for police chiefs.

“First of all, it was not legal to put (Wurstner) on probation to start with and, secondly, I’ve never heard of anyone being on probation for two years,” Bailey said.

Wurstner was fired Feb. 14 for insubordination after he allegedly went on runs with the Fire Department after he was ordered not to by Goodrow because he was on medical leave.

In the injunction complaint, Wurstner says he was not on medical leave at the time, and there is no process for medical leave for his position.

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@medina-gazette.com.