Attorney Stacy Dame hired as counsel for the Madison Fire District

Beginning this year, the Madison Joint Fire District and its board will have legal counsel by their side that doesn’t share a similar role to the village or township.

The Madison Fire Board, which comprises of three township trustees and three village councilmen, hired Stacy Dame of the law firm Wiles Richards at their organizational board meeting Jan. 21.

Dame, a North Perry resident, has been practicing law since 2003 and oversees her firm’s Madison Township office. Board members approved her compensation Jan. 21 at $350 per month with an additional office rate of $95 per hour, the same compensation rate former fire board solicitor Joseph Szeman had.

Szeman, who was the fire board solicitor for nearly five years, resigned late last year, understanding that the fire board wanted to hire someone who didn’t have ties to either the township or village government, said a few fire board members after the meeting.

“It was a tough job for him with the village and fire district,” said Fire Board Chairman Pete Wayman.

“There was only one man who could carry that load and he’s no longer a solicitor, he’s a judge,” Wayman added later, referring to Lake County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Collins Jr, who served as solicitor for the township, village and fire district for more than a decade up until 2002.

Szeman has been Madison Village’s Law Director since 2011, but 2014 marked an extraordinary year for the fire board and village council’s relationship. Early on in the year, the fire board hired special counsel to represent them in negotiations with the village for a buy-out agreement so village officials could take back control of Fire Station 1.

Before going to a final vote, Councilmen John Hamercheck and Kenneth Cahill,neither of whom serve on the fire board, accused the fire board’s claimed $189,000 reimbursement of being an illegal gift and threatening legal action if the agreement was approved.

Meanwhile, the fire board’s special legal counsel alluded the board will take legal action against the village if council and the mayor tried to take station 1 back without reimbursing the district for its investment in repairs and an addition to the village-owned structure.

Five of the seven councilmen ultimately approved the agreement in September and are waiting for the court to make a decision on Hamercheck and Cahill’s lawsuit, which names only village officials as defendants.

The Madison Fire Board will also be getting a new fiscal officer this year as the district wraps up collecting applications at noon, Jan. 23.

On Dec. 17, fire board members terminated Fiscal Officer Tony Long for violating Fire District’s Ethics Policy and Ohio law.

Long,  who resigned as the village’s fiscal officer last April, pleaded no contest Nov. 25 to two first-degree misdemeanor counts of unlawful public interest in contracts, paying $10,347.46 between the village and fire district in restitution.

Madison Fire Chief Gene Lutz, who has been acting fiscal officer since Long was placed on unpaid administrative leave in Sept. 10, told fire board members that five people have so far showed interest in the position. Board members said the next step after applications are closed is to narrow the candidates to three or so for interviews.

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