WELLSVILLE - Wellsville Fire Chief Bill Smith is officially being classified as on vacation, with retired village firefighter Dave Lloyd presently serving as acting fire chief following a revelation of Smith's lack of certification last month.
Wellsville Mayor Susan Haugh confirmed via phone Tuesday evening that an email received by The Review, stating that Smith has been serving as Wellsville fire chief without state certification since 2009, is correct.
In Ohio, firefighters must be re-certified every three years. According to Haugh, six Wellsville firefighters took their re-certification tests online. Of those six, Smith and volunteer firefighter Mick Comparetto expressed unease after the exam was complete, not sure that their completed exams had gone through.
Haugh says they were assured by officials with Ohio Emergency Medical Services (an agency of the Ohio Department of Public Safety) that the exams had, in fact, been received, and that both men could expect their new certification cards through the mail. "When they questioned this, they were assured that the certification went through," she said.
Haugh says no cards arrived, and further inquiries were made via email and phone with OEMS. "They were again assured that everything was fine," she said. Following these assurances, no further overtures were made. "We knew nothing about it," she said. "Everybody felt that everything was fine."
When Smith and Comparetto recently attempted to re-certify, however, they became aware that their respective 2009 certifications had never gone through. They faxed emails they had received from the OEMS back to the agency's office in Columbus in order to state their case. Haugh says she was informed that their board was to meet on Aug. 26, during which it would review the case.
However, the board declined to make a decision, forwarding the case to a review committee that has not yet ruled on the matter. "That's when we knew that we had to find an interim chief to fill Chief Smith's shoes," she said. In his place, Lloyd, who previously served as chief, was unofficially appointed by the mayor on Aug. 26. Haugh says village solicitor Andy Beech, who has been away from work for family reasons, will consult her on the matter.
Though Lloyd has been retired for several years to this point, Haugh stated that firefighters are granted a year's grace before they need to certify.
Haugh was not able to confirm the legal status of any inspections made and citations given by Smith during this period in which he hasn't been certified to do so. "The review board will come back on that," she said. "We have to wait for their answer to see where we go from there."
Neither Smith nor Haugh were in attendance at Tuesday evening's council meeting and Smith was unavailable for comment via phone.