Olentangy Valley News

Former firefighter's settlement could include getting job back

Orange Township firefighter fired in 2007 claims sexual harassment; $1.7 million settlement could drop if she's rehired


Both sides continue to negotiate a possible reduced monetary settlement in the gender discrimination case of former Orange Township firefighter Raechel Peters -- and it's possible she also could get her job back.

Orange Township board of trustees Chairman Rob Quigley said after the board's meeting Monday, June 17, that lawyers are in discussions about a settlement. He said he couldn't discuss the case any further.

In March, a jury in Franklin County Common Pleas Court awarded Peters a $1.7 million judgment in a gender discrimination case against the township.

Peters, who had complained about sexual harassment by a co-worker, was fired in 2007. Township officials said she was terminated because of poor job performance.

Trustees Quigley, Lisa Knapp and Debbie Taranto passed a resolution in March approving a letter offering reinstatement to Peters (formerly Raechel Sterud).

At least $779,000 in future claimed wages could be trimmed off the $1.7 million jury award if Peters gets her job back and the judge in the case agrees to the reinstatement.

A post-trial hearing was to be held earlier this month but was canceled. Insurance could pay most of the damage award or any settlement.

Peters' attorney, Dan Mordarski, previously said that while she received some level of justice by the jury decision, all she really wants to be is a firefighter. Peters has not been able to get a firefighting job since she was terminated by Orange Township.

Mordarski also said a culture of discrimination exists in the township from top management down, a claim township officials deny.

In a related matter, Knapp questioned at the June 17 meeting why a public-records request made May 21 for all depositions in the Peters case had not yet been fulfilled.

She said Fiscal Officer Joel Spitzer had replied to the request submitter 10 days later that he did not have them in his possession. Spitzer did not attend the June 17 meeting due to health reasons. Copies of the request were sent to trustees earlier this month.

Quigley said the Peters case is not yet over, but Knapp added she is concerned the person could sue the township if such records are not provided in a timely manner.

Also at this week's meeting, trustees approved using the POD Group to update the township's Parks Master Plan. Trustees also OK'd paying the POD Group $68,950 for the work.

According to a request for qualifications, the POD group would conduct community surveys and economic analysis and planning as part of its work. In addition to parks, the township maintains miles of leisure trails and continues to plan for park improvements and more trails.

Trustees have placed a 1.5-mill renewal park levy on the November general election ballot. That three-year levy would replace one that has expired.

If approved, the levy would raise about $1.54 million annually and cost homeowners around $46 a year per $100,000 in property value.