Monroe Township has settled a federal lawsuit that's been looming over the trustees and Fire Chief Dudley Wright for several years.

Monroe Township has settled a federal lawsuit that's been looming over the trustees and Fire Chief Dudley Wright for several years.

Trustee Joe Robertson said the township has settled a federal case involving a former fire department employee, Kenneth Peters, who was involved in two employment-related litigation matters that were not directly related to each other. One filed in Licking County Court of Common Pleas in January 2011 was an appeal of his termination, which occurred because of alleged policy violations. The other was filed in U.S. District Court.

"The employee's appeal of his termination was denied by (Licking County Common Pleas Judge David Branstool), resulting in his termination being upheld," Wright said.

He said Peters and firefighter William VanGundy, who still is employed at the department, filed the federal case in 2009 when they objected to the way in which the department handled medical clearances for its firefighters. Wright said they objected when it was necessary for them to take leave time to meet the department's physical requirements for the job.

Wright said he believes Peters and VanGundy would have preferred to have a disciplinary hearing rather than have to use sick time and vacation time to meet the department's requirements.

Robertson said the case in federal district court was settled for a total of $10,800, which was to be split between Peters and VanGundy and their attorneys.

"Monroe Township viewed this as a lawsuit that lacked merit," he said.

Robertson said the lawsuit was settled for significantly less than 10 percent of what the plaintiffs were seeking in an effort to minimize the cost of the ongoing litigation to the township's insurer.

"The decision to settle the lawsuit was a joint decision between the township and its insurer," he said, adding the township's insurer had paid Monroe Township's legal costs and the settlement cost. "Monroe Township believes that settling the lawsuit allows us to return our focus to providing high-quality service to the community without the distraction that the lawsuit created."

Wright said he does not believe this was a situation in which one side prevailed over another. He said it was in both parties' interests to end the case before it continued on for possibly years and became costly for everyone involved.

Attorneys for Peters and VanGundy declined to comment.