Liberty Township firefighter Chalaco Clark surprised the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3754 union by stepping down as president on Saturday during a regular union meeting.
Clark stepped down before having a chance to meet with township officials to re-negotiate the union’s contract over the township’s health insurance program.
“(Clark) only cited personal reasons” for stepping down as president of the union, said Scott Simmons, now president of the IAFF Local 3754. “As the union, we don’t have any other comment.”
Just last week, Clark was among those who testified in a disciplinary hearing of Fire Chief Tim Jensen. Called as a witness for the township, he testified he had been president of the union local for seven years.
Simmons said the union hasn’t been contacted by the township to renegotiate the firefighters’ contract since trustees changed the township’s health insurance policy.
The township had been giving its employees the option of not taking township health insurance and instead paid them 50 percent of the township’s premium.
Township trustees approved a resolution in a special session Aug. 9, changing the opt-out insurance program. Instead of offering employees 50 percent of the township’s premium, the new resolution reduces that amount to 25 percent of the premium.
Nancy Denutte, township fiscal officer, told trustees Aug. 9 that Brad Bennett, an attorney for the township, would meet with union leaders about the recent changes.
Currently the resolution only affects two nonunion employees. The township must convince its two employee unions to accept the reduced payments.
Simmons didn’t see the sudden change in leadership as negatively affecting the negotiations for the union. “The union’s stance is it’s a negotiation,” he said. “We can’t say anything until we meet with the (township).”
Simmons said he thought the union had a total of 8-10 members who could be affected by the change in the township’s insurance opt-out program.
Simmons said the firefighters are still receiving the 50 percent payment of the premium. “My understanding is things have not changed for the opt-out program,” Simmons said.
Trustees wrote the new resolution to reflect that the unions are not yet affected. “This will not be effective with unions until an memorandum of understanding or other form of agreement is agreed upon and approved by the unions and the township,” the resolution states.
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn sent a written statement to The Gazette regarding Clark stepping down as president of the union.
“Firefighter Chalaco Clark was dedicated and passionate about representing the Liberty Township Fire Department union. He strived to establish open communication, sought ways to better serve the community and to advance the firefighter profession. Serving as union president can be stressful and quite time-consuming, I can’t thank him enough for his commitment.
“Firefighter Scott Simmons has taken over the position and I appreciate him taking this on. This leadership change will not have any affect on the opt-out program, as we were and will continue to work together on resolving the issues.”
Clark could not be reached for comment.
Jensen, who has been suspended since March 1, is facing misconduct charges in a disciplinary hearing brought by trustees. It resumes on Sept. 1.
The opt-out policy has been changed because Denutte said it violated state law.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.