DSC 0068Residents and members of the Pike Township Fire Department past and present turned out for a special meeting of the Pike Township Trustees held at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday, January 21, in support of Fire Chief Jerry Donnelly.

Donnelly was reappointed to the position of chief on December 31, 2015 according to minutes from the trustee meeting available online. This action by the board of trustees was taken despite the fact that they had entered into a contract with Kelly Babcock, an attorney from the management and consulting firm Clemans Nelson on October 20, 2015 following an executive session held by the trustees. The contract was approved in the amount of $150 per hour for a maximum of $5,000 for the investigation under ORC 505.38 appointment of firefighting personnel.

Babcock was also involved in the investigation of Mad River Township Fire Chief David Leist in February 2013. Her investigation lead to the termination of Leist from his position following a public hearing and a vote by the township board of trustees that same year.

According to information obtained by the New Carlisle News, the Pike Township Board of Trustees appoints the fire chief each year at their organizational meeting.

Prior to the meeting, residents took to social media to promote attendance at the early morning meeting to support the Chief Donnelly and the other fire fighters in the community. Reports from a member of the audience suggested that the meeting was standing room only.

The New Carlisle News reached out to Trustee President James Davidson concerning the investigation and he explained that Babcock did present five charges to the trustees and they did in fact demote Donnelly to the rank of fire fighter on Tuesday of last week.

Davidson confirmed that Donnelly was found guilty of four of the charges which lead to the demotion. On Thursday the trustee board had intended to begin the process of seeking a new fire chief according to Davidson. He explained that the “tremendous outpouring of support to keep Jerry Donnelly fire chief” did impact on the board’s decision to reinstate Donnelly.

Davidson reported that the trustee board is in the process of posting a job within the fire department for an administrative assistant to work with the fire chief. No information was available regarding whether or not this will be a paid position. This is one of the “details” that is being worked out between the department and the trustee board.

During our interview, Davidson stated that the township holds one evening and one daytime meeting each month and did not expect the large turnout on Thursday. He noted that “this is an advantage of having local government where residents can come and speak out” on any topic.

We also reached out to Chief Donnelly who stated that he was pleased to have “the backing from the public and the past and present fire fighters”. He went on to say that “we are here for the residents of Pike Township and the surrounding community” and that he intends along with the members of the fire department to continue to provide services at the level expected of the department.

Donnelly, is the recipient of a State of Ohio award presented by Senator Chris Widener for his 41 years of dedicated service to the residents of the community.

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