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Windham Volunteer Fire Department Plagued with More Drama

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Windham – The WVFD met for their regularly scheduled meeting with all board members in attendance, including a second representative elected by the village council. Chairman Dann Timmons called the meeting to order with the first item of business being, to elect a new chairperson for the 2015 year.  The board elected Dann Timmons to be the chairperson.

The next item to be addressed was the so-called elephant in the room, two people elected to fill the same seat on the board. At the September Windham Village Council Meeting, the council unanimously voted to have Jim Moore as the village’s citizen representative to the fire board, replacing George Bengston, who passed away. After three months of service, the village council rescinded their appointment of Jim Moore at the December council meeting. According to Jim Moore, council then voted 3-1 to elect Phil Snyder to the fire board. The vote technically failed as it was not a majority of the elected officials; it was only a majority of those in attendance.  According to Council member Linda Rininger, a second vote was taken at an emergency meeting on January 13th (two days prior to the fire board meeting) with a vote of 4-2, electing Phil Snyder. Jim Moore believes the action was illegal, so he was taking his position on the board. Phil Snyder, who was also elected to the board to fill the same position as Moore was also present on the board. 

Dann Timmons said he researched the issue and talked to several outside legal counsels including the prosecutor’s office and they deemed the action illegal. The three opinions he sought said that only the fire board could dismiss someone from the board. To avoid a legal fight and to wait on a written legal opinion, it was suggested that the board could do one of these three options:

1. Suspend operations until issue is resolved. 

2. Seat both

3. Select one over the other.

The district can’t suspend operations. Seating both would be a violation of the joint district’s operating agreement and selecting one over the other would open the door for more legal action.  The fire board decided that no big decisions would be made until the issue was resolved and neither Moore nor Snyder would be allowed to vote until the issue was resolved. 

Fire board member and Village council member Deb Blewitt stated that the council made the appointment of Phil Snyder to the board and he should be recognized as the board member. Timmons responded that  the attorney general’s office has set a precedent in 2014 saying  that council doesn’t have the authority to remove a person from the board, making that action against the Ohio Revised Code. Timmons said he believes the removal of Moore is illegal as well, according to the independent legal counsels he sought out on the same issue.

Phil Snyder voiced his opinion on the four member board. Snyder said, “I am duly elected by official action of council to serve on this board (fire) and I oppose any decision made by a four-man board, due to not having enough representation from the village.” This went into a lengthy discussion with many people voicing opinions. In the end, the fire board voted to operate as a four member board until a written opinion is received on the issue.

The board approved the minutes, bank reconciliation and expenditures for the month of December. Mark Russell from Ellerhorst Russell Insurance presented the insurance renewal policy for the district. After answering a few questions, the board approved the policy. The four member board went into executive session to discuss personnel issues.

 They returned and stated that the board had received four resignations from firemen and/or EMT’s earlier in the day and they each asked for an exit interview. The board set January 21, 2015 as an executive session for the exit interviews. 

Fire Chief Mike Iwanyckyj requested an executive session for personnel reasons so the board entered into a second executive session of the evening. The board returned 20 minutes later. 

 In open issues, Timmons met with Mayor Rob Donham and Deb Blewitt on the alleged breach of contract by discontinuance of dispatching; the village had  offered $3,500 / year to cover costs of dispatching. The discontinuing of dispatching has cost the WVFD Joint District approximately $25,000 / year. Several on the board think they need to counter offer the village’s proposal. 

 Originally, the district appointed Jim Moore and Dann Timmons to negotiate a settlement on the dispatching issue. According to Deb Blewitt, the mayor would not meet if Moore was on the negotiation team, so Moore stepped aside. The chairman asked if another board member would be willing to sit in on negotiations, Mike Dye said he was available and would be willing to do so. The board voted to add Mike Dye to the negotiating team.

 A fireman asked to address the board. He questioned why they had a lead person on calls whose credentials had expired. He also questioned why the board did not know it was happening and why it had been going on for a long time. Timmons said these issues would be addressed in the executive session set for January 21, 2015.

In new business, Jim Moore read a letter to the board; he announced his resignation. Moore stated that he would put aside his pride and do what is in the best interest of the community and the fireboard. The board reluctantly accepted Moore’s resignation. Timmons to Moore, “I am sorry this has happened and I have enjoyed working with you. I also appreciate you doing this for the WVFD.” A motion was made to rescind the acceptance of Jim Moore on the fire board and to accept the village’s latest appointment of Phil Snyder as the citizen representative to the board. This  was seconded and a vote was taken with a 2-2 tie.  The meeting was adjourned.

A call was placed to Mayor Rob Donham for a statement on the dismissal of Jim Moore and the appointment of Phil Snyder to the fire board and here is the statement Donham sent this reporter, “I am pleased that the village council has appointed Phil Snyder to the fire district board to replace Jim Moore. Although, I don’t directly have any influence on the appointment either time, I was skeptical when Mr. Moore was appointed that he would be able to serve without pursuing his own political chaos as I’ve experienced in the past. In the very short couple of months, Mr. Moore began to cause chaos and fighting that has not been experienced in the six years the district has been in existence to the point where the council believed they had to make a change. Phil Snyder has served the village the district and Windham as a whole admirably in the past and I am confident will continue to do so in the future.”