Liberty Township firefighters are asking folks to donate to a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for one of their own.
Firefighter Darrel Wasmer, a 24-year veteran of the township’s fire department, is fighting for his life. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2016 and was recently diagnosed with amyloidosis.
“This fund will go directly to Darrel to continue his fight and assist with purchasing insurance and paying his medical bills,” states the account.
Doug Stern, a spokesman with the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters, said in a nutshell, firefighters have a greater exposure to carcinogens due to battling fires.
“Firefighters are 51 percent more likely to contract non-Hodgkin lymphoma than the general population,” he said, “I think it’s important to note that his cancer started as non-Hodgkin lymphoma, but metastasized to amyloidosis.”
In a regularly scheduled trustee meeting Sept. 4, a unanimous vote was cast by the Liberty Township Board of Trustees approving a verbal resolution to terminate Wasmer’s employment with the township.
The International Association of Fire Fighters Local 3754 union wrote the following statement in response to the matter:
“After 47 years of decorated and respected public service to the Buckeye State, the Industrial Commission of Ohio determined that Darrel Wasmer had contracted cancer as result of his duties as a fireman. For the past 24 years of his service, Darrel has been a dedicated member of the Liberty Township Fire Department.
Sadly, Darrel is losing his battle with cancer. While fighting for his life he continues to defend his benefits from Liberty Township. The Township’s opposition to Darrel’s claim for benefits under workers’ compensation law and interference with his insurance coverage have placed him and his family in a precarious financial position, adding further stress and emotional burden on a terminally ill public servant, who has put others first and self-second, as evidenced by the awards and commendations he has received for saving lives.
For the community to lose such a man is tragic; for the Township to turn their back on him in his hour of need—when it could easily allow him to take advantage of benefits he has earned and paid for—reflects a callous disregard of its civic duty to treat citizens, and its employees too, with a minimum amount of human decency and respect.”
Firefighter Wasmer could not be reached for comment.
However, according to documents, Wasmer did apply to the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation in June 2017, but the claim was denied in July 2017. He filed an appeal with the Ohio Industrial Commission seeking to have the decision vacated, but it was disallowed.
Wasmer filed appeals four more times with the commission before it vacated the BWC decision that Wasmer’s cancer wasn’t work related.
“All medical bills related to the allowed condition shall be paid in accordance with Industrial Commission and Bureau of Workers’ Compensation rules and regulations,” states the commission’s final decision.
Cathy Buehrer, Liberty Township human resource manager, said the situation with Wasmer has been ongoing since August 2016.
“He’s not been at work since and has exhausted everything we can offer him,” she said. “We’re not prohibiting him from seeking other avenues. It’s a very sad story, and no one is taking pleasure in it.”
Buehrer said there is a policy that would’ve allowed other township employees to donate their vacation time to Wasmer, but said to her knowledge that such a request was never made.
However, Buehrer did mentioned that the township had filed an appeal with the Industrial Commission. She said it was unusual that Wasmer was denied his claim several other times before it was overturned.
“The township asked for an appeal as the final step for the Industrial Commission,” she said. “It’s still before the commission.”
Wasmer filed in Delaware County Common Pleas Court on May 10 against the township and Ohio BWC.
“Plaintiff, Darrel L. Wasmer, prays for the right to continue to participate in the benefits provided by the Ohio Workers’ Compensation Act for the aforementioned allowance… ,” states the complaint filed with the court.
According to the court documents, the township petitioned the court for a summary judgment, but Wasmer is asking for a jury trial set for April 2019.
During the roll call for the vote on Sept. 4, Trustee Melanie Leneghan, board chair, and Trustee Shyra Eichhorn both quietly said “yes.”
Leneghan said Friday in a phone interview with The Gazette that she had no idea what the executive session was about nor did she know that the board would come to a decision that night.
“I was given the details in the executive meeting, and he left us no choice,” she said. “He had been counseled repeatedly in ways that were good for everyone. We were quite generous. We let him exhaust everything.”
Leneghan said that Wasmer no longer resides in Ohio nor holds an Ohio driver’s license.
“He is in violation of the IAFF contract,” she said. “He can’t really be employed by the township if he doesn’t have an Ohio driver’s license.”
Trustee Mike Gemperline’s vote came with a comment.
“I’m qualifying this as, that I hate to do this, but I’m being forced,” he said. “I vote yes.”
In a phone interview Friday, Gemperline clarified the statement.
“You don’t want to fire a firefighter,” he said. “He’s not able to come back to work and it’s unfortunate, but he can’t keep taking money from the township.”
Eichhorn could not be reached for comment.
The Gazette requested a copy of the resolution from Buehrer who responded via email, sending a draft copy of the minutes from Sept. 4 and a statement.
“As this was done by a verbal motion, which is sometimes done when resolutions/motions are added to the agenda, there is no paper resolution,” she stated. “The minutes, once approved by the Board, will serve as the record of the motion/resolution.”
Go to https://www.gofundme.com/cvcn7-firefighter-battling-cancer to donate to the GoFundMe account for Wasmer and his family.
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.