Oct. 10--PLYMOUTH -- Rich Metzger is back as the volunteer Plymouth fire chief.
His reinstatement became effective Wednesday morning. Plymouth Mayor Tim Redden said the situation had nothing to do with a drunken driving charge from nearly a year ago, but rather the timeliness of Metzger filing 2012 reports and updates with the state fire marshal's office.
Redden said the village and state apparently had some miscommunication about what the village needed about its investigation, which resulted in requests being resubmitted back and forth.
"It was a long and drawn-out affair because of the misunderstanding (with the state) more than anything," he said. "We had to go through a lot to get that stuff."
Metzger, 44, had been on paid administrative leave since Dec. 14.
He has been the fire chief since Jan. 1, 2008. Metzger also is a full-time firefighter for the Springfield Township Fire Department.
Metzger shared the situation on Facebook.
"I just left the council meeting (Tuesday) and they voted unanimously to retain me as fire chief. I can finally put this behind me and move on. Thanks to all the family, friends, and department members who came to support me ... and for all the support by everyone, as well as the prayers," he wrote.
Metzger said he usually keeps his Facebook posts "vague and ambiguous," but he decided he couldn't do so this time "because of how much I care about this job and the community I serve."
"Since my accident, as much as I have wanted to, I have not been able to return to the fire department I've been a part of, and love, due to being on paid administrative leave. It now all comes down to (Tuesday's) council meeting to decide if I can come back or not," Metzger said.
In May, he pleaded guilty to failure to control for a Nov. 25 single-vehicle crash in Springfield Township. According to Mansfield Municipal Court records, the state dismissed one count of driving under the influence the same day Metzger entered his plea.
The crash, investigated by the Mansfield post of the state Highway Patrol, happened at 2:12 a.m. Nov. 25 on Ohio 314.
Metzger was northbound when he went off the left side of the road and hit an electrical pole, which caused the top half of the split pole and a transformer to crash to the ground. The Jeep Grand Cherokee overturned and hit a tree. Troopers had the Jeep towed from the crash site with heavy overall damage.
At the time, Metzger was on his way home from The Den on Lexington Avenue. He said earlier he had three beers and was driving too fast when he hit the railroad tracks and lost control.
Troopers brought Metzger to the Shelby Police Department, where he took a breath test. Sgt. Jerry Botdorf has said Metzger's blood-alcohol content level tested at .144 percent; the legal limit for drivers in Ohio is .08 percent. Metzger, who had minor injuries, was released to a sober driver.
In June, Metzger faced five disciplinary charges -- including gross negligence in the performance of duty -- in connection with the fire reporting situation.
"It was decided two weeks ago to pursue my removal. ... The two major charges related to (the Ohio) Revised Code violation were dropped last week due to evidence provided, so now I have three charges left to defend in front of council and the community," Metzger wrote Monday on Facebook.
Redden said village concerns arose in January when the assistant chiefs started entering information into the computer, but the Firehouse program wouldn't accept the data.
"They had to call and find out (why). It got to be a big snowball thing," the mayor said.
Metzger calls the situation "a hard road" -- one which cost him "a lot of sleep."
"(I) definitely learned a lot from all this. I see things in a different way now, with a clearer mind and body, and have become a better person in so many ways, thanks to this wake-up call," he said via Facebook.
"And, I took to heart what Councilman (H. Lee) Welker said, 'This is your second chance, chief; don't let us down.'"