Before witnesses in defense of Liberty Township’s Fire Chief Tim Jensen were called in his disciplinary hearing, trustees reached an agreement. Thursday morning trustees held a special 8:30 a.m. meeting at the township offices that was moved to a closed door executive session to discuss discipline, demotion, or compensation of a public employee or official.
“The sole thing for me is I’m pleased to have the opportunity to go back to work,” Tim Jensen said. “It has been a long ordeal.”
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn confirmed Friday morning the township had reach an agreement with Jensen and that he would return to work with the fire department.
“An agreement has been reached and we look forward to moving ahead,” she said. “Tim Jensen will return as a lieutenant (and) Fire Prevention Officer.”
Trustees said they would move forward quickly. “We will be naming an interim chief and immediately starting our search for the next Liberty Township Fire Chief,” Eichhorn said.
When Eichhorn was asked when Jensen would start back with the department as a fire prevention officer and who would become interim fire chief, she replied, “I can’t comment any further at this moment.”
Trustee Tom Mitchell was asked Friday how the reduction in rank affected Jensen’s pay. “I can’t comment on that this moment,” Mitchell said.
Jensen said that the pay change would not be significant. As fire chief he was earning $91,000 annually.
However, Mitchell did say he was excited about moving forward with the department.
Paul Bittner, Jensen’s attorney, said, “I’m at the point that I can’t tell you anything or add any more than you know now.”
Liberty Township trustees, who had been presiding over the proceedings of Jensen’s disciplinary hearing, had scheduled the hearing to continue for two full-day sessions on Sept. 1-2.
Jensen was placed on paid administrative leave by township administrator Matt Huffman March 1.
Jensen faced misconduct charges filed by trustees May 16. The charges were filed after trustees hired Cincinnati attorney Douglas Duckett to investigate Jensen’s conduct as chief and to write a report that concluded Jensen was not fit to continue as the township’s fire chief.
In the three nightly sessions of the disciplinary hearing, held Aug. 8-10, attorney for trustees, Edward Kim, called six witnesses, the first witness was Duckett. Attorney’s for both sides questioned the witnesses on several of the issues raised in the investigative report written by Duckett into Jensen’s conduct as chief.
Duckett was the first and only witness called by Kim August 8 that Bittner got to question. In the process Duckett informed Bittner he was scheduled for a business trip and would not return until the following week. When trustees called it a night Bittner said he still had about another two hours of questioning for Duckett. Duckett was asked to return at a later date to finish the questioning.
The following two nights Kim called firefighters who were under Jensen’s command and township employees as witnesses for the township.
Angela Courtwright, an associate attorney to Bittner, reported the second night of the hearings they had planned to call 15-witnesses.
The Gazette reported May 6 that Liberty Township trustees had spent about $107,231 in legal fees at that point in connection with the investigation of Jensen, which includes his salary while on paid administrative leave.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.