Fire chief seeks reversal of misconduct charge

Larry Limpf

A brief filed March 16 in Ottawa County Common Pleas Court asks the court to reverse the decision last year of the board of trustees of the Allen Clay Joint Fire District that found Mark Stahl, a battalion chief, guilty of misconduct.
“In its decision, the board stated as part of the ‘disciplinary sanctions and penalties’ it imposed that Mark Stahl would serve one year of probation subject to removal without cause. Such a penalty must be reversed on grounds that it would deny Stahl’s due process rights to remove him from the fire district without cause,” the brief says.
The board action followed an August 2018 emergency run to a Williston residence where an intraosseous procedure was performed on an elderly man by an emergency medical technician who didn’t have the required certification for the procedure.
A disciplinary administrative hearing for chief Stahl was held Aug. 29, 2019 before the district board of trustees which found him not guilty of a misfeasance charge and guilty of a charge of misconduct in office.
The board said the evidence didn’t support a finding he “ordered or knowingly permitted EMT-Basic Justin Frank to perform an I/O medical procedure in violation of his EMT certification authority and district protocol.”
However, the board ruled Stahl was “guilty of misconduct in office by reason of nonfeasance, failing to administratively address the issue of …Frank performing an I/O procedure in violation of his….certification authority and district protocol when …Stahl knew or should have known of the occurrence …of Frank performing an I/O medical procedure…”
The decision also says Stahl failed to “properly report the violation.”
But John Coppeler, Stahl’s attorney, argues the board’s reasoning for its decision wasn’t sound.
“The flaw with the board’s finding of guilty on the charge of misconduct is this: If the board could not conclude from the evidence that Stahl had directed or knowingly permitted Frank to do the IO, it could not properly find from the evidence that Stahl knew that Frank had done the IO,” the brief says. “The findings of not guilty on the first charge of knowingly permitting Frank to do the IO but then guilty of knowing that Frank had done the procedure are directly contradictory to each other without any evidence that after the fact, Stahl had become aware that Frank had done the IO procedure. And no such evidence was presented.”
The brief further contends there is no evidence Frank later discussed the IO procedure after the emergency run was over with Stahl or that any of the emergency medical technicians or two captains who witnessed the procedure by Frank mentioned it to Stahl at the scene or later.
According to the board’s decision notice, all four board members, Scott Everhardt, chairman; Marilyn Opfer, Gaylord Sheldon and Darryl Bittner concurred in the findings for Stahl.
The board imposed a 60-day unpaid suspension and one-year probation for him and set a requirement for Stahl to complete a leadership course by Dec. 31.
“The board went on to find that Stahl failed his duty to report the violation as soon as the same became known to him. Yet again, there was no evidence that the violation actually became known to him until the fire district initiated its investigation months after the call was over,” the brief says.
In addition to Frank and Stahl, Cara Orra, a paramedic, was also the subject of a review by the board.
Attorneys for the district have until April 15 to file a response.


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