Ass't fire chief dismissed

Saturday, August 8, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

NORWOOD -- Assistant Fire Chief Tim Sennett has been fired by Safety Director Paul Bazzano, who cited 25 violations of fire department policies and procedures in an Aug. 5 termination letter to Mr. Sennett.

The violations stemmed in part from Mr. Sennett's falling asleep on a couch in department headquarters while his fellow firefighters were battling a house fire on Jan. 10 and for a disorderly conduct arrest last year at Rumors, a Mount Carmel strip club.

Also cited were charges that Mr. Sennett played games on department computers for 12- to 16-hour stints and then tried to coerce a subordinate firefighter into removing and concealing evidence -- computer games, Mr. Bazzano said. He also is accused of lying to Mr. Bazzano during questioning.

The number of violations, Mr. Bazzano said, "has convinced me . . . that I have no other choice but to terminate your employment." In all, 13 violations were brought against Mr. Sennett by acting Fire Chief Craig Williamson, with 12 additional violations from Mr. Bazzano.

Attorney Robert Kelly, who represents Mr. Sennett, said an appeal of the termination has been filed with the Civil Service Commission. No hearing date has been set.

Regarding the house fire, Mr. Bazzano said an internal investigation indicates "you were found asleep while other fire division personnel were performing various tasks associated with the house fire . . . You were called in on an overtime basis and were the ranking officer in charge (when) . . . you were found asleep with the television on."

Mayor Joe Hochbein said he is most troubled by the charge of trying to coerce a subordinate to take evidence and lie to an investigator. "That misconduct has no place in Norwood," he said.

Mr. Sennett was suspended in July following what was a second investigation into his performance ordered by Mr. Bazzano and conducted by independent fact-finder John J. Cruze, an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati's College of Law and a former assistant U.S. attorney.

The dismissal is the latest development in an internal situation that began with the April termination of former Fire Chief David Walters by the mayor. The mayor fired the veteran fire chief for aborting the first internal investigation of the allegations against Mr. Sennett.

"It seems to me," Mr. Kelly said, "that Bazzano has fired everybody who steps foot in his office . . . career professionals, without any justification or basis. That will be shown in the hearings."

The mayor said the basis for firing Mr. Sennett was concurred upon by two investigators and Mr. Williamson, and that former Chief Walters was dismissed for aborting an investigation into Mr. Sennett. "This was not Paul Bazzano acting alone," he said.

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