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BOW accepts West's resignation from Peru Fire Department

BY Paige Conley - pconley@perutribune.com

A potential legal battle between the Peru Board of Public Works and former Peru firefighter Scott West came to an end during the BOW meeting Tuesday evening with the reinstatement and resignation of West.

West, 37, of Peru, was arrested April 10 on charges of maintaining a common nuisance, possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia following a controlled substance investigation and ensuing search warrant, according to a letter written by Peru Fire Chief Erick Hawk to the Peru Board of Public Works & Safety.

West, who was absent during the meeting, has been trying for several weeks to get the BOW to reinstate him so he could resign in lieu of his termination on June 1; an action he claimed was unjust according to several sections in Indiana Code 36-8-3-4.

In an effort to avoid a legal battle, Peru City Attorney Dustin Kern and West’s attorney Edward Merchant were able to come to an agreement that satisfied both parties.

“The agreement is that, in lieu of a drawn out legal procedure and legal matter on both ends, we would reinstate Mr. West with no back pay, no benefits, no contributions,” Kern said. “In consideration of us doing that, he would file his letter of resignation which we have received.”

After the BOW moved to have the matter added to the agenda, Mayor Greer opened up the floor for discussion in which two Miami County residents had questions concerning West’s termination.

One resident referenced the IC 36-8-3-4 subparagraph N, which states, “If the member is subject to criminal charges, the board may place the member on administrative leave until the disposition of the criminal charges in the trial court,” according to the IGA website, when he asked the board why they decided to terminate West before his court procedures were completed.

In response, Greer stated the BOW didn’t rush to terminate West and their decision to terminate him wasn’t based on his charges, but rather his conduct.

“There was comments made in his conversation with the state police in Mr. West’s own words describing the use and other actions that I know what I felt like and I assume the board felt like was grounds for termination,” Greer said.

Following Greer’s comments, the resident questioned if Greer had run across any other city employee who had been arrested or in a similar situation and received no consequences for their actions during his time in office to which Greer stated there hadn’t been.

The resident then questioned why the city never received two of West’s certified letters requesting a hearing with the BOW when the letters had receipts with them.

In answer, City Clerk Tanisha Soldi explained she was surprised to see the receipt for the letter since she didn’t have a certified envelope for it.

“If I don’t have an envelope with the letter, I don’t know that it was received, certified or not,” Soldi said.

Soldi assured meeting attendees everything the city has in his file is what was given to them.

Since West’s termination, the speculation and questions revolved around whether or not the BOW followed proper procedure, but never about if West actually committed the acts he was charged with, Greer pointed out.

“I think it’s clear what has happened, and I think for the city to look any employee in the eye and say we expect certain standards and we’re not going to turn a blind eye regardless of whether we like you or if you’ve done a great job in the past,” Greer said. “If you break the rules, we have to follow though with the rules we’ve set for everybody and I have yet to hear anybody say he didn’t break the rules.”

After closing the discussion, the BOW approved West’s reinstatement and then his resignation in a unanimous vote.

The request to reinstate West so he could resign wasn’t handled by the city, but rather West and his attorney, according to Greer.

“The reason of reinstating so he can resign allows the city to move beyond this without the worry of, as the counsel said, protracted legal battles and whatnot,” Greer said. “This is something Mr. West would like to see done according to his attorney and the city sees a way of being done with this once and for all.”

According to Kern, the reinstating and resignation of West allows the city to avoid a court battle and mitigates costs down the road for both sides.

“We feel 100 percent safe in the actions that we have taken,” Kern said. “The fire department, the Board of Works and the city in general feel like we complied with any and all state statutes, local ordinances and whatever we needed to do to terminate Mr. West appropriately.”