West Licking Joint Fire District
Fulmer gets two-week reprieve for public hearing
Beleaguered West Licking Joint Fire District Chief David Fulmer requested and received a 14-day reprieve from a public hearing planned Sept. 13.
Fire board members had hoped to present formal charges against Fulmer, but fire board member Mike Fox, who represents Pataskala, said Fulmer's attorney contacted the board's attorney and requested a two-week extension, to which Fulmer is entitled under state law.
"We have to continue to pay him for that time, even," Fox said.
Fox, who also serves on Pataskala City Council, said there is no legal way around paying Fulmer for the nearly four months he has been on administrative leave. Fulmer, who was hired as chief in 2009, makes a base salary of $98,800 per year. He could not be reached for comment.
ThisWeek obtained documents pertaining to the investigation through a public-records request earlier this month. The documents indicate Fulmer could be charged with misconduct, poor use of public funds and tampering with public records.
Fox said a public hearing will be scheduled in the next two weeks and formal charges will finally be presented.
"It's a very frustrating situation," Fox said, expressing impatience with the legal process. "It's absolutely ridiculous."
Fox said when Fulmer's professional fate is finally decided, he intends to contact state Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and state Rep. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) and discuss methods of making the investigative process more efficient from a legal standpoint.
Otherwise, Fox said previously, there are specific laws regarding how the investigation process must proceed and it takes time. Fox said board members would be unwise to try to hurry the investigation and are relying on attorneys and R.L. Emmons and Associates, a Centerville-based investigative services and legal support team, to ensure the entire process is handled legally.
Fulmer was placed on administrative leave May 29 following a decision reportedly made during a May 23 executive session. No public vote was taken at that time. Board members then met in an emergency session June 4 and voted 5-0 to place Fulmer on administrative leave.
Fox previously said the board's legal counsel, Marc Fishel of Columbus-based Downes Fishel Hass Kim, advised members not to discuss the reasons Fulmer was placed on leave other than to say it was not a disciplinary action for any sort of malicious intent but rather for a policy disagreement between Fulmer and the board.
During a special meeting June 7, the board hired R.L. Emmons and Associates to investigate Fulmer.
Assistant Chief Ken Matthews is acting fire chief during Fulmer's absence.