A former Columbus fire chief wants a public personnel hearing over how he handled some fire department funds, but the city has denied his request and will hear evidence in a closed session.
Firefighter and former Chief Gary Henderson has been on paid administrative leave from the Columbus Fire Department since early June pending the outcome of the Columbus Board of Works hearing scheduled for July 26.
The hearing concerns how Henderson directed about $1,800 in payments the fire department received for the disposal of used motor oil from November 2006 through February of this year.
The money was used to purchase soft drinks, coffee and other beverages for the Police Fire Maintenance Facility, but the city is accusing Henderson of not having the funds accounted for by the Columbus Clerk-Treasurer’s Office.
The purchase of the beverages also was not approved or authorized by the City Council, according to the city.
Henderson wanted his hearing to be open so the facts of the case could be heard by the public, said his attorney, Ed Merchant of the Indianapolis law firm Ruckelshaus, Kautzman, Blackwell, Bemis & Hasbrook.
“There’s nothing for him to hide, and he just felt the public has the right to know,” Merchant said.
But the city determined the hearing would occur in a private executive session of the Board of Works based on state law that allows for closed sessions for personnel matters.
Mayor Kristen Brown, who is one of three members of the Board of Works, said findings from the hearing will be disclosed in an open public meeting after the closed session.
The board also will make any decisions based on the hearing during a public meeting, she said.
The public meeting has not been scheduled.
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