Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Everett Krueger Thursday morning declined to halt a planned disciplinary hearing for suspended Liberty Township Fire Chief Tim Jensen.
Township trustees plan to hear misconduct charges against Jensen Aug. 8-9.
Krueger said he had read the arguments from both the township and Jensen’s attorney, and he would not grant a stay of hearing. “I’m not doing that,” Krueger said. “You have to exhaust all your remedies.”
Krueger declined to hear testimony from township witnesses at Thursday’s hearing.
Jensen’s attorney, Paul Bittner, asked, “I’m assuming there is no prejudice?”
“No, file your appeal in the required time frame,” Krueger replied. “The chief is entitled to his hearing.”
“We wanted to get clarification from the court as soon as possible whether or not the hearing would go forward,” Bittner said after the hearing. “The court stated that the issues on appeal would have to be raised after the hearing.”
“We are now going to get prepared for the hearing in August,” he added.
In the appeal, Bittner has asked Krueger to drop the misconduct charges based on his claim that Jensen’s right to due process has been violated.
The township was represented by attorneys David A. Riepenhoff and Stephanie L. Schoolcraft.
Also present were Trustee Shyra Eichhorn and township Administrator Matt Huffman. Both declined comment after the court hearing.
Bittner has said a legal process for removal of a firefighter, including a chief, and the process — outlined in the Ohio Revised Code — must be followed.
The Ohio Revised Code requires a private citizen to investigate and to bring charges to trustees, he said. “(Douglas) Duckett was told to bring charges by the trustees,” Bittner said. “The trustees can’t make the decision to bring charges.”
Jensen was placed on paid administrative leave March 1 by township administrator Matt Huffman. Trustees officially charged Jensen on May 16, alleging misconduct in office and gross neglect of duty, based on an investigation report prepared by Cincinnati attorney Duckett.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.