WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - The Wabash Township Firefighters Association has voted no confidence in Trustee Jennifer Teising at its meeting last Wednesday. That vote was unanimous, and they are calling for Teising's resignation. This after two months of uncertainty and unanswered questions from the leader of Wabash Township.
Wabash Township Firefighters Association President Michael Dwyer says he was not expecting Chief Ed Ward to be fired on December 21st.
"I was pretty shocked," he said. "I cannot even describe how upset I felt for him and for the situation he was in."
He described Ward as a good leader who made sure the new volunteer firefighters felt prepared to do their job, and he pushed the veteran firefighters to lead by example.
As we previously reported Wabash Trustee Jennifer Teising fired Ward and said she did not have to give him due process because the department is partially volunteer-based. Indiana code says due process is only mandatory for full time departments, even though Ward was a full time employee of Wabash Township.
This lead the township board to call for her resignation in December and to the volunteer firefighters to walk out for several days in protest. Now the firefighter's association is joining the board in its demands.
This move stemmed from an email from Trustee Teising to the department's leadership. It was shared with News 18 anonymously. The email says the department leadership has been "insubordinate" for communicating with the board members directly instead of communicating with board through her office as she had previously instructed.
"This is your last and final warning to stop communicating directly with the board unless provided specific exceptions in writing from my office," said Teising in the email, and that while she doesn't want to have to go to these measures, she "will be forced to take action if this continues."
"It was brought up by one of the firefighters that, why haven't we voted no confidence in the trustee similar to what the board does," said Dwyer.
After spending time discussing the issues they have with Trustee Teising, they put it to a vote.
"We unanimously voted for everyone that was at that meeting said yes, we don't have any confidence that she can be the leader of our township or that she's being an effective leader of our township," he said
The association sent out a statement to the community about their decision. It said their vote boiled down to three things: the removal of the two previous fire chiefs, damaging relationships with surrounding fire departments and civic leaders, and low morale among the volunteer firefighters.
"We would like her to resign and for the Democratic Party to caucus to replace her with someone who is really wanting to be here, be in the township caring for the community here," he said, adding that the volunteer firefighters are in support of Ward. "We are fully behind Ed, we want to see him get his due process for his dismissal. We want to see him being able to support his family."
News 18 reached out to Trustee Teising to see if she would like to comment on the matter, but have not heard back yet.
Angel Valentin, President of the Wabash Township Board, sent the following statement on behalf of the board:
"The firefighters who serve our Township are one of the most important assets Wabash Township has. They put their lives on the line every time there is a fire or an emergency, and they deserve to have a Trustee who will treat them with respect. They, along with all Township residents, deserve to have a Trustee who will do the hard work necessary to ensure the interests of the Department and the community are placed front and center as we seek a path forward for our fire protection. We may not have statutory authority to carry out the much needed change, but as Board members and concerned Township residents, we stand with our firefighters as they seek to change the toxic work environment they've been working in for far too long."
PHOTO: Statement relesed by the Wabash Township Firefighters Association on Feb. 18.