Indiana’s public access counselor has received a formal complaint about the Abington Township trustee and advisory board regarding an alleged violation of the state’s open door law for government meetings.

The complaint was lodged by a former Abington Township Volunteer Fire Department member who has provided the complaint and response from the state agency. He was dismissed from the fire department after exposing to media, law enforcement and government agencies a letter seeking donation of a fire truck from the Scioto Township Fire Department in Pickaway County, Ohio, to the Abington department.

The letter carried the typed signature “Chief James Ausmus,” but Ausmus said he did not write, send or approve the letter. Township Trustee Steven Kaiser said during a March 26 advisory board meeting that the letter was sent as a form letter, although it specifically addressed the fire truck donation. During that meeting, the advisory board voted 2-1 to remove Ausmus as fire chief because of an alleged breach of contract and misuse of funds.

The advisory board had postponed its March 20 meeting to March 26, and a notice posted at the fire station indicated an executive session would occur at 5:30 p.m. The advisory board began its public meeting at 5:30 and did not enter into an executive session either before or after that meeting.

When Kaiser introduced the new business of removing Ausmus as chief, he said, “As you guys know after our meeting with the attorney, we basically need a” motion from the floor to remove Ausmus as chief. The only details about the charges against Ausmus revealed during the meeting occurred later.

“We can just go by our contract, and when he didn’t follow the contract in January with the stipend pay to the officers, that’s the breach of the contract and the misuse of funds,” Kaiser said.

After that statement, a motion was made to remove Ausmus, and board members Doug Toschlog and Malinda Glover voted in favor. Theresa Clark opposed Ausmus’s removal as chief.

A letter from the public access counselor’s office indicates the township board has until April 22 to respond to the open door complaint.

The board will also soon have a new member. Glover has submitted a letter of resignation because she is moving outside the township.

Clerk Debra Berry said she had received Glover’s letter requesting she be replaced as soon as possible. Berry then sent a certified letter to Gary Saunders, chair of the Wayne County Republican Party. Saunders has 30 days from receipt of that letter to conduct a party caucus that selects Glover’s replacement.

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A version of this article appeared in the April 10 2024 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.