Chester Township Fire Chief John Wargelin was placed on temporary administrative leave with pay on Tuesday in connection with potential violations of statutory provisions of the Oho Revised Code by the fire department.

In a press release, the Chester Township Board of Trustees announced the retention of the human resource management and consulting firm, Clemans Nelson & Associates, Inc., who was asked to perform an independent review and analysis of the township’s fire department.

“This appointment was made in accordance with the board’s fiduciary obligation to the township’s residents and was made only after consulting legal counsel,” the release states.

The Times reached out to trustees, but they declined to comment on the matter.

Based upon preliminary review and findings by the firm, trustees appointed an employee of the firm as an independent investigator to determine whether any member of the township fire department has violated any statutory provisions of the Ohio Revised Code that governs the fire department.  

Clements Nelson offers expertise in human resource management and provides an independent and objective perspective to local governments, the release stated.  

According to the release, in order to assure a complete and thorough investigation without any influence from the current fire department administration, the fire chief was placed on temporary administrative leave with pay and remains available to address any of the needs, issues or concerns of trustees or the investigator.  

“This action is not punitive in nature and is not considered to be any form of disciplinary action by the board,” the release states. “The board has taken this approach to assure that all factual matters are being addressed independently and objectively; and, in the interim, the residents can be assured that they continue to receive the level of services which they have received in the past.”                

Trustees hired William J. Shaw as interim acting fire chief who retired in 2020 after completing 36 years in the fire service.  

Chief Shaw has a bachelor’s degree from Bowling Green State University, an associate degree from Lakeland Community College and is a graduate of the National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer Program.  

He previously served as fire chief for the Willoughby Hills Fire Department in Lake County and Solon Fire Department in Cuyahoga County and is a credentialed fire chief through the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association, according to the release.  

During his 36-year career, Chief Shaw was active in many local and state professional fire service organizations and was a founding member and past president of the Cuyahoga County Fire Chiefs’ Association.

He also served as the past president of the Ohio Fire Chiefs’ Association, as well as an instructor at Lakeland Community College, the Ohio Fire Academy and Auburn Career Center.

“The Board will not take any further action, at this time, with respect to the fire department until it receives the final report and recommendations, if any, by the appointed investigator.”

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