Liberty fire chief investigation report released


By Glenn Battishill - gbattishill@aimmedianetwork.com



An independent investigation into the conduct of Liberty Township Fire Chief Timothy Jensen concluded that without “major” changes, Jensen is not fit to remain in command of the fire department.

The investigation report was released Wednesday by township officials. The investigation was conducted by Douglas E. Duckett, an attorney and investigator from Cincinnati, who also prepared the report.

Trustees commissioned him to investigate a list of issues related to Jensen’s performance as fire chief.

In the report, Duckett says the five key issues and his conclusions of the investigations were:

• Jensen “repeatedly failed to responded to trustee requests for information and to complete projects requested or assigned by the trustees or the township administrator in a timely and effective manner. … In this respect, he has failed to perform in a key aspect of his job.”

Duckett’s examples included: Jensen’s failure to document that he has followed up on firefighter physical examinations and providing false information when township Administrator Matthew Huffman asked him about it; Jensen failed to respond to inquires for information from trustees on several occasions; and Jensen has a reputation in the department and the community for chronic tardiness to the point that it has become “a widespread joke, called ‘Jensen Time.’”

• Duckett reports that witnesses describe the Liberty Township Fire Department under Jensen as “a place where there is little or no real accountability for performance failings.” Duckett states that Jensen failed to discipline employees on several occasions and, in one instance, Jensen gave the impression that he would make the reprimands “go away” for an employee who refused to let a woman having a mental health issue travel to the emergency room in a medic vehicle.

• Regarding setting an appropriate model of strong and accountable leadership, Duckett reports that Jensen made inappropriate comments to firefighters regarding the recent township fiscal officer election race, telling a firefighter that there could be “losses” if incumbent Mark Gerber were defeated (Gerber lost). Duckett says this was pure speculation that only serves to alarm employees who have already endured layoffs and cutbacks.

Duckett also notes that after drugs were apparently stolen, Jensen didn’t launch a full administrative investigation, instead deferring to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office and needlessly delaying changing locks.

However, Duckett does note that he found the allegation that Jensen did not change the “toxic climate” in the department after a November 2012 levy failure to be unfounded.

• Duckett reports that Jensen repeatedly failed to provide complete and timely paperwork to the township’s human resources administrator.

• Duckett reports that, after Jensen was suspended by trustees and ordered not to come onto township premises without Huffman’s approval, Jensen had conversations with three township fire officials while they were on duty.

In his conclusion, Duckett states that in several distinct and important aspects, Jensen has fallen short of what the people of Liberty Township and township trustees have the right to expect.

“Without a major fundamental and ongoing change of course, Mr. Jensen is not fit to remain in command of the fire department,” Duckett writes. “Whether he is capable of making the needed changes, and whether the board of trustees can ever have trust and confidence in his leadership in this critical role, are questions that both he and the board of trustees must ponder and decide.”

Duckett notes twice in the report that the issue is not about Jensen’s character or good intentions. Duckett even notes that no witnesses questioned Jensen’s character or passion for fire service.

Huffman and the township’s attorney, Edward Kim, could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jensen has been on administrative leave since March 1.

Liberty Township trustees are scheduled to meet Monday at 7:30 p.m.

By Glenn Battishill

gbattishill@aimmedianetwork.com

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.

Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.