April 24, 2014

Medina
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Lodi Village Council fires Fire Chief Andrew Wurstner — again

LODI — The fire chief has been fired again.

Village Council voted 4-2 Monday night to terminate Andrew Wurstner as chief of the volunteer fire department for insubordination and removed him as a firefighter.

Wurstner

Wurstner

It was the second time Council voted on the issue. Common Pleas Judge Christopher J. Collier ruled March 22 that Council did not follow proper procedure when members voted to fire him in February.

Wurstner, who was appointed fire chief in February 2009, and his attorney, Steve Bailey, said they plan to appeal the ruling in Collier’s court on the basis Wurstner did not receive a fair hearing because Council already voted once to fire him.

The vote was 4-2 both times, with each Council member voting the same way each time.

“They had already pre-judged this case,” Bailey said Tuesday. “They could not possibly be fair.”

The charges stem from Council’s Dec. 6 Safety Committee meeting during which Mayor Dan Goodrow reportedly gave Wurstner a direct order not to go on runs with the department due to a shoulder injury.

Bailey said Wurstner was instructed to continue his administrative duties with the department, and that’s what Wurstner was doing when he tagged along with other fire medics to supervise four calls after Dec. 6.

Goodrow brought the issue to Council, saying Wurstner violated a direct order by going on runs and should forfeit his job.

At the time, the village listed Wurstner as a probationary fire chief, and therefore would not have to hold a hearing to fire him. Council voted Feb. 14 to remove Wurstner as chief.

In his summary judgment in March, Collier said there is no such thing as a probationary fire chief under the Ohio Revised Code and, therefore, Wurstner was still the chief. Following that decision, Wurstner was placed on administrative leave until Monday’s hearing could take place.

Bailey said Wurstner did not contest that he was present for four fire department runs, but that because he did not actively participate in the calls and was there to supervise only, he did not violate the mayor’s order.

“You don’t throw away 27 years of service to a community for this,” Bailey said. “I think it’s ridiculous.”

Goodrow, Council President John Carpenter and Lodi Law Director Irving Sugarman did not return phone messages seeking comment Tuesday.

Wurstner said up until this issue, he and the Fire Department had a good relationship with Council.

“I’m disappointed,” Wurstner said. “I’ve been (a volunteer firefighter) a long time. It’s not something you do for yourself. You do it for your community.”

Councilwoman Melody Miller, who voted in favor of keeping Wurstner as chief, called the punishment “harsh” and said she believes the issue has personal roots.

“Back in November, the mayor told me he had someone in mind for the position,” Miller said Tuesday. “It’s a big factor, if you ask me. To me, the punishment does not (fit) the crime.”

Miller said the situation has put other Lodi employees and volunteer workers on edge and may discourage residents from volunteering with the department.

“You have employees right now who are afraid to blink an eye because they’re afraid they’re next,” Miller said. “And that’s not good.”

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at (330) 721-4063 or jpignolet@medina-gazette.com.

  • newsmaker

    This is tyoical of small govt. they take a personal issue make it a personnel issue and then get sued see these folks have learned from other communities that its OK to mess up folks lives for their own satisfaction. I can see how this one will go already he’ll sue in state common pleas court Lodi will fight him then he’ll sue in federal court Lodi won’t want to spend the 200K plus to fight it and either they will pay him off or they will rehire him and pay him off. Meanwhile the community has crappy EMS as no one wants to run in that environment. Seems these guys are following the Litchfield model of ticking everyone off to the point you tick off someone with more resources (translate to money) than you and now you have 3 – 4 pending lawsuits in state and federal court and like We saw at Litchfield’s last zoning meeting the township employees dont know what way to turn because the trustees are getting them sued every other week. OH and I bet this Lodi fire chief sues each member individually and in Ohio punitive damages are not covered therefore guess what the board members have to pay with their own money if they lose. That usually changes some minds. You see it is OK to cause lawsuits and fight them if its not the politicians coin going to the defense or fine but the second the politicians house is on the line they cave. Just watch if this Fire chief has any money and fight he’ll get to that point and Lodi will deal or be forced into it by a third party or parties. OH and right after this is done in Lodi stay tuned because there will be a second federal lawsuit in Litchfield because the trustees there are about as dense as the council members in Lodi and they will try to fire their chief she already can sue over an illegal investigation but they will fire her and open 6 other doors. so I gues the race is on will Lodi’s fire chief hit the lotto over their or will Litchfield end up selling the town hall to pay off their chief and make the fire station Jerky plant 2!!!!

  • simplyme06

    Im not the only one out there that would like to know why this punishment was so harsh, you dont think 3 months off the dept was enough? Andrew put 27 years in on the dept, .. I also would like some answers from the council members who are” not “realizing that the mayor has many of times ganged up on Andrew trying to suspened him and get him to step down , dont act like you dont know that this happened because you were ALL awear of this ..so for someone who says that you would not deal with disobaying and people not doing what thier supposed to be doing but and yet you sit next tho the man that is supposed to come to his council as the rules state to follow the rules and chain of command and dosnt ,,
    you mayor Goodrow need to be put on trial for your actions, it is you sir who should be fired and i hope and pray if you run for re-election the lodi residents will know not to vote you back into office.you are a joke , and so is half of the council who stands with you and your actions .

  • rsmez

    Everyone May think this punishment is harsh, But what everyone doesnt know is the whole story behind the way Andrew ran the department. He made his paramedics run as Basic’s because he doesn’t like the idea of paramedics and advanced EMS training. Drew had the cops following some of the department members because they did not agree with that and ran squad calls as a paramedic squad since they had the training. I believe if you have the personelle to run as a paramedic squad you should. If it was your family member that was having a problem wouldnt you want the most advanced care that could be offered at the time? Also he was threating his department memebers who didnt agree with his ideas, and was trying to get them kicked off the department. Drew was not a very liked guy around the department because alot of people did not like the way he was running things. He would buy new tools and then lock it all up in a room and not allow anyone to use it, Talk about a waste of money? After he got suspended the first time the emts went through and had to restock and roder supplies for their squad since he wouldnt allow them to order supplies for the ambulance. Also he was having people follow his department members around and check back into him about what they were doing. This man has a real problem. If you have ever had a conversation with him, I bet you its recorded. The man carries a tape recorder around and records every conversation he has. You all may think hes a nice guy and everything but you dont know the real truth about Andrew Wurstner. If you were a member of his department you would think this ruling would be the best one for the community.

  • btdtma

    If anybody has ever run calls with Lodi they could tell you stories. Chief Wurstner MEANS well, but is he suited to run a 2011 Fire Department for a Village? I dont think so

  • phoneman

    The previous post couldn’t be more accurate!!!

    I’ve been a part of the calls mentioned by VollyWhacker and I’ve seen the thousands of dollars worth of equipment that Ryan speaks of and have witnessed the inappropriate actions taken by Mr. Wurstner.

    I love the fire service, I’ve been in it for over a decade, and when I witness actions taken by a senior officer that puts my health in jeopardy or the health of other firefighters and EMT’s, it makes my blood boil!! It is compounded even more because the communities are ultimately the ones that must pay. They pay either with tax money that gets used for lawsuits or because the level of service they believe to be getting, doesn’t exist and should.

    To make matters worse, many of the people in the community don’t realize what is happening and defends the senior officers’ actions based only on what they read in a paper or hear at the grocery store. I’m not saying someone who has dedicated almost 3 decades shouldn’t be treated fairly. What I am saying is just because someone has that many years of service don’t always mean they are the right one for the position.

    The fire service is not what it use to be! We are no longer able to ride on the tail boards of the trucks as it races to the next call. We aren’t able to stop at the local gas station after that same call and pick up a 12-pack to drink while we wash the trucks and re-load hose. The fire service has become no different then business, we take calculated risks in hopes of great returns. There are rules (laws), there are standards (ethics), and it requires honesty/trust. How does one risk his or her life when they are relying on the leadership and knowledge of those above them to direct them on a scene when they know those they are relying on don’t always follow the rules, have questionable standards, and are untrustworthy???

    Then the question arises, what do you do when you have some one in a position they ultimately may not be the best fit?? I’m certainly no lawyer but at work we have these posters that are required to be posted by the Dept. of Labor, somewhere on that poster it states that Ohio is an “at will” state. After doing some research about what that means I found that employees can be terminated for any reason so long as the reason is not illegal. Why are Fire Chiefs held to a different standard, especially those in small townships for villages? Over the last few years we have read multiple stories about Fire Chiefs being fired and then they sue the municipality, or threaten to, and they are either paid a nice severance package or hired back. I can say I’ve never been fired from a job, but if I am someday, if I sue will I get my job back? I believe if you are not performing your job to the standard that is required of your title, you should be held accountable.

    The position of Fire Chief is a position that requires lots of skills. That person must be knowledgeable in many areas from fire ground tactics/operations, to fire codes and, in recent years, National Incident Management System (NIMS). For those departments that run EMS, that person better be knowledgeable about everything related to that also, there is a lawyer around every corner. Fire and EMS knowledge aren’t even biggest skills required, some of those would be; leadership, interpersonal communications, delegation, open minded, mentoring, just to name a few. Three decades of service to a community doesn’t not in any way demonstrate, in and of itself, all the required skills.

    I wish no one misfortune, but if they are not doing their job, they need to be held accountable. Public official should be held to a higher standard as they are empowered and entrusted with so much more then a regular citizen. I don’t know the mayor in Lodi, nor do I know any of the counsel members, so I won’t comment on this all being a personal issue. On the other hand, I have interacted with the fire department for a number of years and will say this could be the best thing to happen to them in a long time! In the long run, the community will be a safer place and in time be receiving a level of service far beyond were they are currently. I wish them nothing but the best for the future as they rebuild and move forward!