Liberty Township trustees went behind closed doors Monday to discuss an investigation of the township’s fire chief, but not before one trustee accused another of discussing confidential matters with township staff.
Fire Chief Tim Jensen has been suspended with pay pending an investigation into his conduct as fire chief.
Before going to executive session Monday night, Trustee Melanie Leneghan asked for a motion to keep matters discussed in a scheduled executive session private. The executive session was scheduled to discuss personnel matters, specifically authorizing $7,500 more in expenditures for the investigation of Jensen by Cincinnati attorney Douglas Duckett.
“I would like to add before we go into this meeting, this is going to be privileged and only privileged and that if it is spoken outside the group, it will be in violation of ethics and the law,” Leneghan said. “I’m noting that this is privileged. Can I get a concurrence on that?”
Earlier in the meeting, a resolution authorizing the additional $7,500 was tabled, pending discussion in executive session. The resolution remained tabled after the closed session, Leneghan said Tuesday.
Leneghan’s motion was directed at Trustee Tom Mitchell. “I’m not going to concur to something I don’t know what the topic is fully about,” Mitchell said. “I have not been briefed.”
“If you don’t feel you can keep the information privileged, you shouldn’t come to the meeting,” Leneghan responded.
“I’m not going to tell the staff anything if this is purely about staff issues,” Mitchell said. “I will concur.”
In a phone interview Tuesday afternoon with The Gazette, Leneghan said confidential information from executive sessions has been shared with township staff. “I’m assuming that it was him (Mitchell),” she said. “Things that we talked about, the entire fire department knew.”
“I just assumed that it goes with the territory,” Leneghan said. “If you talk outside of the executive session, then you jeopardize the goals of the township.”
Leneghan also commented on Mitchell’s reaction near the end of Monday’s meeting, “I thought it was very telling that he would not concede to not talking about the executive session.”
“By definition, there are only a few things that we can go into executive session for,” Leneghan said. “To protect employees and to protect the township.”
According to Leneghan, executive sessions are attended by trustees and those who are invited. Usually township administrator Matt Huffman is asked to join the session.
Leneghan said that she knows that Trustee Shyra Eichhorn and Huffman had not leaked the information to staff.
“I didn’t want him to violate the ethics of the board,” Leneghan said, referring to Mitchell.
Mitchell could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
In other business, township resident Dick Wilcox thanked the fire department for saving his stepson’s life. The squad resuscitated him after a motorcycle accident. “I just wanted to acknowledge that the squad performed professionally,” Wilcox said. “It’s so reassuring to know that in Liberty Township we have professionals using the top procedures to keep Liberty Township safe.”
Battalion chief William Piwtorak also asked trustees for $8,850 to replace body armor for fire department.
The department upgrades vests every five years. “We have seen increasing runs that are high risk with potential injury to fire and EMS personnel,” Piwtorak said. “The vests have a shelf life of five years. The Kevlar breaks down and the liability is too great in the event we get shot.”
“It sucks that you have to wear them,” Mitchell said.
Trustees approved the request.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.