Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire District Chief Bradley George has been placed under suspension until a new investigation is completed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Following an executive session Tuesday, the Paint Creek Joint EMS/Fire Board voted to again suspend George, this time with pay, pending the investigation. The action was at the advice of the board’s attorney, according to board members.
Jon Salyer, human resources manager and public information officer for Paint Creek, said following Tuesday’s meeting that he heard that complaints had been filed against George and that BCI was involved. He said he contacted Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, who confirmed that information.
Salyer said he did not know the details of the new complaints against George.
According to Highland County Sheriff Donnie Barrera, complaints were filed with his office a few weeks ago, but “to give everyone a fair shake,” he contacted BCI.
George is a certified officer, Barrera said, and has served as a special deputy with the sheriff’s office for more than two decades.
The sheriff said that it is common to have an outside entity handle investigations of a department’s personnel. He said if a deputy is involved in a traffic crash, the state patrol investigates. If investigation of an incident with a municipal officer is required, the sheriff’s office handles it.
For the department to remain neutral, and in the interest of an impartial investigation, Barrera said he turned the matter over to BCI.
George was originally suspended in early July while the board conducted investigations based on allegations by Paint Creek staff members.
In a Sept. 8 hearing, George faced charges of gross negligence, malfeasance, and failure to show good behavior. Following the hearing the board found the charges to have been established as true.
At that hearing, a motion to terminate the chief failed with four board members voting yes on the motion, and five voting against it. Ultimately, all nine board members voted to place George on a 30-day unpaid suspension, but with guidelines upon his return and more board oversight of operations.
At a Sept. 22 Paint Creek board meeting, firefighters distributed a “no confidence” document regarding the chief, along with a list of 70 allegations against him.
Within days of that meeting, George sat down with The Times-Gazette and said he was “totally caught off guard” when he was informed of his suspension and the pending investigation in early July. He said he was given no details at the time he was placed on suspension.
Also in that interview, George said most of the items in the no confidence document amounted to employee disagreements with management decisions. He said complaints on the list about hiring or pay rates were under the auspices of the board, not himself, although he makes hiring and firing recommendations.
He denied one of the more serious allegations that he had lied to Insurance Services Office (ISO) inspectors about water availability and tanker coverage.
George was due to return to work Oct. 9, but that was delayed a few days until the board met again to finalize guidelines for the chief’s return.
The latest investigation has once again placed George on suspension indefinitely.
Reach Angela Shepherd at 937-393-3456, ext. 1681, or on Twitter @wordyshepherd.