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Former Columbus Fire Chief Gary Henderson has been suspended for 72 hours without pay but will keep his job on the fire department.
The Columbus Board of Public Works and Safety, minus one of its three members, Mayor Kristen Brown, announced the disciplinary action during a public meeting Thursday.
“It’s been an experience that I hope nobody else will ever have to go through,” Henderson said after the meeting.
Henderson, who has been on administrative leave without pay since June, was accused of allowing funds from the sale of used motor oil to be used for soft drinks and other beverages, without first turning over the funds for proper accounting in the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office.
An agreement signed earlier in the day between the city of Columbus and Henderson’s attorney, Ed Merchant, dropped all allegations against Henderson in exchange for the ex-chief admitting he failed to follow proper procedures.
The dropped allegations included misappropriation of funds, violation of public trust, theft of city property and failure to supervise.
A 72-hour suspension for a firefighter is equivalent to three 24-hour shifts, which are standard for firefighters.
“There were no winners today,” Henderson said, “but I’m ready to move on.”
Henderson credited his friends and family for helping him get through the past few months, which he insisted Thursday was over something too insignificant to be made into a big deal.
The Board of Works had planned to hold a closed-door hearing, complete with witnesses arguing both sides, Thursday morning but scrapped it after signing the agreement, concluding it was in the best interest of all parties.
Board of Works member Jayne Farber said leaders should be held to higher standards than employees and must be held accountable.
Member Susan Fye assured the audience that she reviewed case law and other documents over the weekend and came into the meeting with a good understanding.
Henderson, though he described the allegations against him as ridiculous, said he is glad to be staying on the department. He said he doesn’t want to do anything else.
The mayor said the reason she was not at the meeting, despite being a Board of Works member, was that she felt it would have been inappropriate, given her dual role as mayor.
She said she had nothing to do with the decision by the other two Board of Works members.
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