Fire board to appeal court's ruling on Fulmer
Judge says chief was fired without being proved guilty of wrongdoing
Members of the West Licking Joint Fire District board say they intend to keep ousted Fire Chief David Fulmer's status in limbo a little longer.
Fulmer won an appeal in Licking County Common Pleas Court April 18 after Judge Thomas Marcelain ruled the board fired him 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 would file the appeal by the end of the day Friday, April 26. He declined to provide details of the appeal, which was not filed by ThisWeek's press time.
The fire board voted 4 -1 Nov. 8, 2012 to terminate Fulmer, citing misconduct in office and malfeasance related to personal information on former employees from another municipality 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.
In his opinion, Marcelain wrote that the fire district "offered no substantial evidence that (Fulmer) violated the Internet use policy. Further, (the fire district) has not articulated or demonstrated how (Fulmer's) possession of some of his former employees' personal information on his computer constituted misfeasance or malfeasance."
Fire board members said they disagree 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 reason 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 appeals process.
Assistant Fire Chief Ken Matthews has been acting chief since Fulmer was fired.