Lewisburg village council swears in chaplain, debates controversial firing policy


By Anthony Baker - abaker@aimmediamidwest.com



Rev. Don Thomas was sworn in as Chaplain for the local police department during Lewisburg Village Council’s second bi-monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 20.

Rev. Don Thomas was sworn in as Chaplain for the local police department during Lewisburg Village Council’s second bi-monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 20.


Anthony Baker | The Register-Herald

LEWISBURG — Village Council debated a controversial employee firing policy during its second bi-monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 20.

Village Solicitor Richard Faber introduced an ordinance to update the village’s manual of employee conduct. Provisions in the current manual “place the village in the position of having to expend a lot of resources and time to bring about the potential dismissal of an employee,” according to Faber.

Village employees “have certain due process rights” with regards to the hiring and firing process under the current rules, according to Faber, including the right to a hearing before council.

The updated language would change the employment of those not elected, such as city council members, nor directly appointed by council, such as village fire, EMS and police chiefs, to “at-will” status under Ohio law, meaning that their employment can be terminated by either party at any time, with or without cause.

Under the new rules, Municipal Manager Jeff Sewert would retain sole authority to hire and fire such employees. Sewert moved to waive the customary three readings needed to adopt such a measure.

“I recommend we move forward immediately,” Sewert said.

Council member Mark Madigan took issue with the proposal, citing a lack of council oversight.

“I’ve never seen a government entity where one person can discipline someone, up to and including firing, and no one else has anything to say about it,” Madigan said. “I just don’t see the reason to change this. I think it’s rather silly.”

Council ultimately voted 4-2 to waive the second and third readings of the ordinance – which would have taken place during subsequent meetings – and adopt the new policy, with Madigan and councilwoman Lori Pheanis voting against. The policy will go into effect 30 days after adoption, according to Faber.

Also during Thursday’s meeting:

Rev. Don Thomas was sworn in as Chaplain of the Lewisburg Police Deptartment. Along with Pastor Ken Harbaum, Thomas now offers “ministerial support and presence” to local first responders as chaplain for the Lewisburg PD, Eaton Police Division and the Preble County Sheriff’s Office.

“I think you perform a very important function for our police department,” Mayor Marsha Jones told Thomas after he was sworn in.

Police Chief R.G. McGee agreed, saying it was important for local officers who might be going through a tough time to have someone to talk to.

“We really had a desire to bring chaplaincy to our officers,” McGee said. Thomas was sworn in by Faber.

Fire/EMS Chief B.J. Sewert informed council that work will be occurring on westbound I-70, from the Preble County line to U.S. 127, over the next three weeks. Road crews will be working from 9 p.m. until 10 a.m., according to Sewert, likely resulting in slow traffic as well as possible entrance and exit ramp closures.

“They usually get quite a bit of back-up for the first couple hours or so,” Sewert said, advising those working in Richmond to find alternative routes for the time being.

Village council meetings take place the first and third Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Lewisburg Community Center, located at 6400 Knapke Ln.

Rev. Don Thomas was sworn in as Chaplain for the local police department during Lewisburg Village Council’s second bi-monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 20.
https://www.registerherald.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/41/2020/08/web1_Don-Thomas.jpgRev. Don Thomas was sworn in as Chaplain for the local police department during Lewisburg Village Council’s second bi-monthly meeting Thursday, Aug. 20. Anthony Baker | The Register-Herald

By Anthony Baker

abaker@aimmediamidwest.com

Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish

Reach Anthony Baker at 937-683-4057 or on Facebook or Instagram @mproperenglish