TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) - Volunteer firefighters for Wabash Township are no longer responding to calls in protest of the firing of Fire Chief Ed Ward.
Wabash Township Trustee Jennifer Teising fired Ward via email late Monday after the township's three-member board pushed her to resign.
Deputy Chief Jim Lewis says he believes Teising did not have the authority to fire Ward. He provided the following statement to News 18:
"The Wabash Township Firefighters association held a meeting on Monday night on how we were going to move forward after the firing of one of our paid personnel who we believe did not receive due process under the law. In order to show our support we decided to limit our volunteer response. This in no way jeopardizes the township residents as our paid staff will still be making calls."
Teising says she checked with the township's legal counsel before moving forward.
"Our legal counsel reviewed the statutes and made a determination that the trustee is the sole decision on the appointment and that person serves at the pleasure of the trustee," she says.
West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis says the West Lafayette Fire Department has stepped in to make sure no residents are without fire services.
"We will make certain that no citizen is at risk," he says. "If we are needed, we will respond. Our fire chief, Tim Heath, is working with Wabash Township in the hopes of making sure they understand the protocol in the event that there is a need for us to respond."
As News 18 previously reported, the township board sent an email to Teising Monday morning urging her to resign and alleging she now lives in Florida.
In a video interview with News 18, Teising is wearing short sleeves and sunglasses with blue skies and an RV in the background. But she maintains she still lives in Wabash Township, even though she has missed three of the last four board meetings.
"It's my understanding the requirements of my office to work with the board on approving and accepting a budget and some other minor details, but that's the majority of what we're doing, and so the board had already voted on and made all of their decisions for the year," she says.
Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski, one of Tippecanoe County's highest ranking Democrats, says Teising, also a Democrat, should step down if the allegations are true.
"Obviously, we would not support somebody breaking the rules, someobdy not following state law as it pertains to residency or anything else," he says. "If, in fact, she does not live in Wabash Township, then she should, in fact, resign."
Roswarski says the local Democratic Party will hold a caucus to replace Teising if she resigns.
"We'll caucus someone else in. I would not condone somebody not following the rules."
Tippecanoe County property records show Teising under a different last name sold her home in the 900 block of Princess Drive on June 22.
Wabash Township Secretary Brendan Betz says he expects several citizens to file a petition with the Tippecanoe County Prosecutor's Office formally challenging her residency in West Lafayette.