The West Licking Joint Fire District board plans to keep ousted Fire Chief David Fulmer’s status in limbo a little longer.
Fulmer won an appeal in Licking County Common Pleas Court last week after Judge Thomas Marcelain ruled the fire board fired the chief without proving him guilty of wrongdoing.
In response, the fire board on April 23 consulted with attorney Douglas Holthus in executive session before voting 4-1 – with Randy Foor dissenting – to appeal the judge’s decision.
Holthus said he plans to file the appeal later this week. He said he could not give details of the appeal until it is filed.
The fire board voted 4 -1 on Nov. 8 to terminate Fulmer, citing misconduct in office and malfeasance related to personal information on non-township personnel he kept on his work computer. Foor, who represents Etna Township, cast the only dissenting vote.
Fulmer appealed the decision, saying his constitutional rights were violated, that the board did not follow proper procedures in firing him and the board did not prove he had done anything wrong.
Marcelain agreed the board had no grounds to dismiss him, said David Comstock, Fulmer’s attorney.
Now the fire board disagrees with the judge.
“(Fulmer) had the right to appeal and we have the right to appeal,” said board chairman Mark Van Buren. “We’ve taken the process to appeal, like he had. We’re going to appeal and see what happens.”
Fire board member Derek Myers said, “We owe it to the employees and individuals who raised these concerns (against Fulmer) to see this through to the end.”
Foor said he dissented for the same reasons he voted against firing Fulmer in November.
“The reason I voted ‘no’ tonight is the same reason I voted to not fire Chief Fulmer,” Foor said April 23. “I agree with the summary Judge Marcelain wrote and his findings. I just think we need to move the district forward at this point in time and do what’s best for the firefighters so that they can go out and protect our residents.”
Comstock said after Marcelain’s decision that Fulmer was ready to go back to work.
“If he wanted to show up for work today, I think he could,” Comstock said. “But I think we recognize that there are practical issues that need to be addressed.”
Fire board members did not respond when asked if Fulmer could come back to work during the appeal process.
Assistant Fire Chief Ken Matthews has been acting chief since Fulmer was fired.