Thursday, March 13, 2003

E-mail trips up fire chief

By David Eck
Enquirer contributor

GREEN TOWNSHIP - Longtime township Fire Chief Robert Weitzel is scheduled to return to work today after serving a three-day unpaid suspension for inappropriate use of the township's e-mail system.

The suspension stems from an incident in which Weitzel received one or two inappropriate e-mail messages and shared them with others, Township Administrator Kevin Celarek said.

"He got the e-mail from somebody and he passed it along," Celarek said. "They're what I consider bad jokes or calendar-type photos."

Weitzel, 64, was notified of the March 10-12 suspension late last week, records show. He makes $81,114 a year, and heads a department of 45 full-time and 41 part-time employees.

The 45-year veteran of the fire service has been the township's full-time fire chief for 23 years.

"It's unfortunate. I'm certainly sorry that it happened," Weitzel said. "I took my penance and want to get on with running the fire department."

Township officials investigated the e-mail incident after they received an anonymous letter about two weeks ago, Celarek said.

"I believe it came from a disgruntled firefighter that's still on the fire force," Celarek said. "I think it's two disgruntled employees. We investigated and I took disciplinary action on March 6."

The chief also believes unhappy employees pushed the episode.

A review of the chief's personnel file shows that he has received favorable evaluations and a stack of awards, certifications and commendations.

Weitzel is well known among Hamilton County fire officials and has served on both state and regional fire chief's associations.

Despite the suspension, Celarek supports Weitzel.

"He successfully leads one of the largest and most effective and productive fire departments in Hamilton County," Celarek said. "I do not think this is going to affect his productivity or his leadership of the fire/EMS department. I think he has a very commendable record."


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