Friday, November 05, 2010


Eaton Township – After serving within the Eaton Township Fire Department for 41 years, the past 13 as Chief, Phil Slack turned in his resignation today citing a yearlong battle with a Trustee.

Slack offered the following open and blunt letter to the citizens of Eaton Township.

To The Citizens of Eaton Township:
I have had the honor and privilege of serving you as a member of the Eaton Township Volunteer Fire Department for 41 years, nearly two-thirds of my life. For the past thirteen years I served as your Fire Chief. Throughout my time in the Department my highest priority has been to keep you and all my fire and emergency personnel safe and out of harm’s way. As I look back, I am proud I was able to accomplish that with the help of some extraordinary firefighters and emergency crews. I thank them for the many sacrifices they made and their willingness to serve our township. YOU ARE THE BEST!

As some of you know, this past year has been a trying one for the Department and me, personally. While I had a clean record during my many years with the Department, this year, I have been suspended twice, largely upon the initiative of Trustee Donna Hicks, who, as many of you know, is friends with a former member of the Department that I disciplined for insubordination. In my opinion, Trustee Hicks never got over that.

Trustee Hicks has had the backing and support of Trustee Linda Morrison and the Trustee they handpicked, Del Roig. My impression is that Trustee Roig won’t ruffle any feathers among the Trustees and seems to go along with Hicks and Morrisons’ agenda. I do not believe that this panel, even when Hicks was recused, was impartial and unbiased. Neither time that the Trustees took disciplinary action against me did I believe it was deserved. And neither time did I believe that the Trustees cared what my witnesses and I had to say in my defense. In my opinion, the Trustees had their minds made up and they carried out their agenda.

Some of you told me I should appeal the suspensions and take the Trustees to court. Well, I didn’t even know I could do that after the suspension in July—no one told me about my right to appeal. I was also told that I didn’t need a lawyer. Believing the Trustees was a mistake. Frankly, after the second one, the handwriting was on the wall plain enough for me to see that Hicks, Morrison and their go-along sidekick, Roig, wanted me out as chief. Based on what I saw, the Trustees would do whatever it took to achieve their goal. So, why should I waste your tax dollars and my own money to fight that fight? I won’t do that.

Some of what the Trustees went after me for was just plain silly—like when Trustee Hicks sent me a write-up for not responding to her email—an email where she incorrectly typed my public email address so I never received it. (By the way, when confronted with her mistyped email under oath, she would not admit she made a mistake. Foolishly, she contended that it was my personal email address—it was not even close!) Some of what they did was mean-spirited—for example when Trustee Morrison admitted trying to ask me a “trick question” to see how I would answer it. Most of it made no sense—as when they totally ignored the testimony of two experienced firefighters on the operation of our pumper.

As I have stated, what the Trustees should have been doing was working with the Fire Department to find a solution for this Township’s pressing need for newer equipment—a new fire truck. Right now we operate one fire engine that is 29 years old and the other is 14 years old. I have had the good fortune of having firefighters who volunteer their mechanical skills and free time to work on the trucks and save the Township money. Unfortunately, there are some things we can’t fix ourselves. But, at a recent Township meeting the Trustees tabled the Fire Department’s request for repairs to one of our fire trucks, even though those repairs involved some real safety concerns. Maybe without me around, they will get down to serving the people of Eaton Township.

Where the Department goes from here, I can’t say. We have many excellent and skilled members. However, I do know that some members have actively, and they mistakenly thought secretly, fed information, regardless of whether it was accurate, to at least one of the Trustees. I have heard too many times about one firefighter meeting with a Trustee to deliver information and discuss his future in the Department and about Trustees bad-mouthing me behind my back. They don’t seem to realize that folks can hear raised voices even when the office door is closed. At this point there are too many people with their own agendas and ambitions for my taste. Politics, either in the Township or in the workplace, has never been to my liking.

And so, now that I am back on duty, I have decided to resign my post as Fire Chief, effective immediately. It is with a strong sense of how this Township is run and who has the power. My decision also comes with a sense of pride for my years of service. I wanted to and am leaving with my reputation intact. So, if you hear something about me, instead of just believing it, stop me on the street and ask about it. I’ll be glad to talk with you.

In closing, thank you Citizens of Eaton Township for the great support and encouragement you have given my family and me over the years. And thank you for the opportunity to serve this community as a firefighter and your Fire Chief.

Phillip Slack


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