Members of the Sumpter Township Board of Trustees approved the employment contract for Fire Chief Rick Brown during the Sept. 28 meeting.
The approval came following a request from Township Clerk Esther Hurst who requested a change in the contract language. Hurst requested a change that would give the township director of public safety the authority to suspend rather than terminate the fire chief pending approval of the township board.
“My thought is that the board hires and the board fires. That is my reason for suggesting the change,” she said.
Trustee Peggy Morgan said that “nobody should have the power to dictate to the fire chief.”
“I have an issue with it,” she said. I've seen contracts for years and I've never seen one written like this.”
Trustee Matt Oddy said that he would agree with the change to the termination clause proposed by Hurst, but felt the fire chief should report to the public safety director.
“It makes no sense to have an employee with no direct supervisor. The board is not around full time. This makes sense,” Oddy said.
Township attorney Rob Young explained to Morgan that she hadn't seen a contract like this one because there hasn't been one. He said the only time the public safety director has oversight is with the fire chief.
He suggested asking Brown if he was happy with the contract.
“Whether Chief Brown approves it or not, I have problem with it,” Morgan said. “I've seen contracts for years and never seen one written the way this one is.”
Township Supervisor Tim Bowman agreed with Oddy that the public safety director should oversee the fire chief.
“I 100-percent agree. Chief Luke is doing a fine job. There is a lot of change over there. They are doing something right. They are looking good,” he said.
Hurst explained that she suggested the contract language give the public safety director the authority to suspend rather than terminate the fire chief.
“We can call a special meeting” to review the situation if there is an immediate issue, she said.
The contract language was changed and approved by unanimous vote of the trustees.