Licking County News

Fire board reschedules Fulmer hearing for June 17

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The West Licking Joint Fire District board has rescheduled its hearing on Fire Chief David Fulmer for June 17.

Fulmer changed his attorney prior to the scheduled June 3 hearing from Richard "Chip" Comstock to Paul Bittner, a partner in the Ice Miller law firm of Columbus. That prompted the fire board's attorney, Marc Fishel of Fishel, Hass, Kim, Albrecht of Columbus, to file an appeal June 3.

The appeal said Fulmer should not be allowed to use Bittner because Bittner has represented the fire board in previous and unrelated cases, according to Mark Van Buren, fire board chairman.

Licking County Common Pleas Judge Thomas Marcelain issued a stay based on the appeal, resulting in the delayed hearing.

During the June 3 meeting, fire board members went into a closed-door executive session before coming out and voting to allow Fulmer to use Bittner as his attorney.

"We voted to waive the conflict of interest on this issue so we can get the hearing rescheduled and get this thing done," Van Buren said.

The charges against Fulmer allege he violated the provisions of the fire district's policy on technology, "through his deliberate misuse and reckless mismanagement of district-owned laptop computers and thereby committed misconduct in office, malfeasance, nonfeasance and gross neglect of duty."

The charges include specifications of Fulmer allowing his family to use the computers, of having inappropriate material downloaded to the computers and of using the computers to view sexually explicit websites.

He also is accused of using the laptops for private business ventures for profit, constituting misconduct and malfeasance, and that his mismanagement of computer usage shows a gross neglect of duties, misfeasance and nonfeasance.

The investigator who recovered the information from the computers, Douglas Duckett of the Duckett Law Firm of Cincinnati, also claims Fulmer was dishonest when being interviewed, which shows misconduct in office and malfeasance through insubordination, according to the charges.

The fire board's investigations into Fulmer's actions have been ongoing since May 2012.

Fulmer was on administrative leave from May 29 to Nov. 8, 2012. He was put on administrative leave following a decision reportedly made by the fire board during a May 23, 2012 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.

The fire board voted 4-1 on 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.

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.

Fulmer's appeal was granted April 18, 2013, by Marcelain.

The fire board on April 23, 2013, decided to appeal the judge's decision.

The Fifth Appellate District of the Licking County Court of Appeals on Jan. 9, 2014 sided with Fulmer, reaffirming the Licking County Common Pleas Court decision.

The fire district on Feb. 13 reinstated Fulmer and begin paying him again but immediately put him on administrative leave. Officials said they needed to initiate and complete another investigation of Fulmer. The current proceedings are a result of that investigation.

Fulmer earns $98,500 annually, which excludes what the district pays for him in benefits, according to the fire district.

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