Lear reacts to board’s vote to remove him as township fire chief

Published 3:47 am Wednesday, January 28, 2004

By By JAN GRIFFEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES -- Former Niles Township Fire Chief Craig Lear was back at work today at the township's north fire station in his previous job as a lieutenant and fire fighter for the department.
He said he's sorry to see the plans and goals he and others made for the township's fire department fall to the wayside, but is glad to be rid of the stress involved with playing township politics.
The Niles Township Board of Trustees voted four to three Monday night after a two-plus hour special meeting with Lear to remove him from his chief's post.
Township Supervisor Bill Myers, Trustee Kevin Tonkin, who is chairman of the township's public safety committee, and Trustee Bob Jones, who chaired that committee for many years, voted to keep Lear as chief.
Township Treasurer Jim Ringler, Trustee Dick Noble, Trustee Richard Cooper and Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt voted to remove him.
Lear reacted to comments from one township board member, Dick Noble, who said he voted Monday night to oust Lear from his job as Niles Township Fire Chief because Lear lacked "leadership, managerial skills and abilities."
Noble specifically said Lear didn't share enough of the rewards for the good things happening at the township's fire department with others.
Noble pointed to a grant secured by firefighter Mark Brandon and claimed Lear didn't adequately thank Brandon for his work.
Lear also said he was surprised at the politics involved with working with the township's board.
Lear said Trustee Dick Cooper is at the center of much of the infighting occurring among the township's volunteer firefighters.
Cooper's daughter, Denise Kasprzak, and her husband, Bill Kasprzak, are also volunteer firefighters in Niles Township.
Lear said Cooper has aspiration of running the township's fire department.
Lear said his relationship with township Clerk Marge Durm-Hiatt went sour when he didn't show an interest in a used, 20-year-old fire truck one of her relatives was offering to sell the township department.
After that incident, he claims Durm-Hiatt began almost constant complaints that he wasn't "following board policies. However, when I asked for those policies, they didn't exist. They wanted me to follow phantom policies and procedures."
Durm-Hiatt, Ringler and Cooper were unavailable for comment this morning.
The three are in Lansing at a Michigan Township Association convention. Lear said he plans to continue in his job as a township firefighter, work with the next chief to further the department and "wait and see what doors open up for me in the future."