It's back to work for six Summit Township firefighters fired in October amid allegations they engaged in sexual activity during work hours.
The Summit Township Board unanimously agreed this morning to return the firefighters to service following a closed meeting. Those returning are: Capt. Doug Evert; Lt. Matt Shaw; Lt. Scott Stoker; and firefighters Todd Moore, Jim Warner and Larry Witkowski.
The "Summit Six," as they became known during a lengthy effort to get their jobs back, filed grievances against the township and underwent arbitration hearings in early March.
Township Supervisor Jim Dunn said it became clear that the arbitrator was going to rule in favor of the firefighters when some witnesses failed to show up and testify.
Rather than draw out the process and wait for the official ruling, and on the advice of township attorney Robert Grover, the board decided to cut its losses and settle the matter.
"We needed to be prudent in managing our township's resources," Dunn said.
Three firefighters hired to replace the six will be laid off.
This morning, Dunn defended his decision last fall to terminate half of the department.
"Based on the information we had at the time, I couldn't have acted differently," Dunn said.
The township hired a private investigator to confirm allegations of illicit activity that surfaced earlier in the summer. Those who gave sworn testimony during the investigation failed to appear when subpoenaed in March for arbitration hearings.
"We had every indication that they would come forward, but several did not," Dunn said.
A seventh firefighter, Capt. Steve Hammond, who was terminated prior to the others, is still in the arbitration process.
"It's been stressful, I can say that," Dunn said after the board vote. "It's over in terms of the grievance, but it's still not business as usual. It's had an effect on all parties."
Fire Chief Michael Hendges refused to comment on the board's decision. Scot Harvey, a representative for the fire union, said this morning he had not heard about the decision and referred comments to Dunn.
Republished with permission of The Jackson Citizen Patriot.