For the third time is less than two years, Madison Township is searching for a new fire chief after two of the department's longest-serving employees decided the job wasn't for them.

Jeff Fasone is serving as interim chief after announcing he would not continue as the leader of a department who oversees more than 50 employees, three fire stations and a budget of more than $13 million.

Fasone, who joined the department in 1985 as a part-time firefighter and paramedic, was sworn in as chief in June 2018 and resigned in May, before completing his one-year probation.

The Ohio Fire Chiefs' Association is assisting the township in a nationwide search.

"The job wasn't a good fit for me," Fasone said. "I had a discussion with my family about it, and we just came to the decision that it would be better for me to step down. At that time, I had a discussion with the trustees, and they supported me retaining a place in the department and finding a replacement for my position."

Trustees have agreed to create a position within the department after Madison Township Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 2507 would not allow Fasone to return to the union as a battalion chief, township trustees Chairman John Pritchard said.

"Moving him into his previous position would have caused the demotion of two union employees," union President Lt. Rashid Taylor said in an email. "As president of the local, it is my responsibility to protect those employees."

When Fasone was named fire chief, James Looney was promoted to battalion chief, and Andrew Slivka was promoted to lieutenant.

Pritchard said he was surprised by the union's decision.

"The union that he's paid dues to for his entire career and as fire chief said, 'No, you're not coming back into the union as a battalion chief. We are not taking you back,'" Pritchard said. "To be perfectly honest, that just disgusts me. His seniority didn't matter at the end of the day."

Fasone replaced Battalion Chief Chris Pallos, a veteran of more than 40 years who served as interim chief for less than a month.

Pallos took over for former Chief Robert Bates, who was hired in 2000 and retired in January 2018.

"I really wanted someone from the inside, but it didn't work out," Pritchard said. "It hasn't put Madison Township in a worse position. I'm actually more satisfied now that we're doing the right thing going outside because we gave the guys on the inside a chance to see if they could do the job or wanted the job."

Township administrator Susan Brobst said 11 candidates have applied and the chiefs' association will assess the applications, with township officials interviewing the final candidates.

"This is an entire process that the chiefs' association does on a fairly regular basis," Brobst said. "We anticipate the final step will be interviews with the final few candidates and that will more than likely take place toward the end of August."

The chiefs' association also interviewed union members "to ascertain what we wanted, and needed, in a new fire chief," Taylor said. "We appreciated having the opportunity to be actively involved in that process."

The union expressed interest in having a chief who "knows the difference between leadership and management and be able to incorporate both of these in a functional manner that supports the operations of the department and promotes a sense of esprit de corps within the organization," Taylor said.

He also noted the new chief should implement succession planning to help others in the organization be able to take over key leadership positions.

"Unfortunately, this has not been a consistent possibility here at Madison Township," he said.

"We have many talented and educated members with good leadership skills and knowledge who can be afforded that possibility in the future," Taylor said.

Currently, Fasone is paid $125,000 annually, which would be the minimum salary for the new chief, Brobst said.

Members of Local 2507 recently agreed to a 2.75% pay increase for one year and extending contract negotiations, so trustees can get a new chief in place, Pritchard said.

The previous three-year contract, which included 3% pay increases each year and wellness incentives for firefighters, medics, lieutenants and battalion chiefs, expired April 30.