What began as a two-day disciplinary hearing for suspended Liberty Township Fire Chief Tim Jensen will now extend into September.
Testimony in the hearing continued Tuesday and Wednesday evenings.
Liberty Township trustees, who are presiding over the proceedings, have scheduled the disciplinary hearing to continue for a full day on Sept. 1.
“We have 15 witnesses scheduled and the trustees’ attorneys have had a total of seven witnesses,” said one of Jensen’s attorneys, Angela Courtwright, Tuesday night.
Attorneys for trustees called five witnesses Tuesday night and questioned them on several of the issues raised in an investigative report done by Douglas Duckett, a Cincinnati attorney, into Jensen’s conduct as chief. Trustees have filed charges of misconduct against Jensen, based on Duckett’s report.
Jensen came under criticism from witnesses for an incident involving a medical patient’s transportation in the back of a police car, instead of a fire department ambulance. Jensen’s attorney, Paul Bittner, referred to the episode as the “Powell Transport Incident.”
According to witnesses, the patient was aggressive and combative at the time. Jensen was called and told paramedics to allow the patient to go to the hospital in a police car with her mother.
Dr. Warren Yamarick, medical director for the township fire department, testified about the general order he had written regarding how patients are to be transported to the hospital. Yamarick said Ohio law dictates that the medical director writes the policy and the department must follow it. “We knew this going in that this (patient) was a behavioral issue,” he said. “It was in direct violation of our protocol.” Yamarick said the patient did not have “the right” to say how she would be transported to the hospital.
Under cross-examination by Jensen’s attorneys, Chalaco Clark, a firefighter and paramedic with the department and the president of the local firefighters union, said: “There was a communication breakdown on the scene. She (the patient) was very uncooperative. It was a no-win situation.”
In another matter, fire department battalion chief Bill Piwtorak testified that he asked Trustee Shyra Eichhorn to intervene in getting “a seat at the table” for the township fire department in the “active shooter-aggressor training” with police agencies in 2011. “I made the attempt with the police with no luck,” Piwtorak said. “It just never happened” — because Jensen didn’t push for the training.
Attorneys also questioned witnesses about missing drugs from one of the department’s specialty trucks. Piwtorak said he had discovered the missing drugs and reported the incident to Jensen.
Piwtorak said Jensen told him to follow protocol and report the incident to police and the Ohio Pharmacy Board.
Piwtorak said the police and the pharmacy board’s investigation suggested that the missing drugs were an “inside job.” No internal investigation was conducted, he said. However, Piwtorak said he thought there should have been an internal investigation.
“Do you think conducting the polygraph would yield a better result?” Bittner asked Piwtorak.
“Yes” Piwtorak said.
However, Clark testified that he did not favor an internal investigation. “If that was the answer, our community wouldn’t trust us,” he said. “’Inconclusive’ would be a better word” for the missing-drug incident, he said.
Jensen has been on paid administrative leave since March 1, pending the result of the current hearing. He earns $91,000 annually and has said he wants to return to his job.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.
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