Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Hebron fire chief taking 2-month leave


No explanation for his request

By Jim Hannah
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HEBRON - A veteran chief of a Northern Kentucky fire department has declined to say why he took a 60-day voluntary administrative leave.

Hebron Fire District Chief Dale Harshbarger, 42, requested in writing a two-month leave of absence with pay and benefits. His letter to the fire district's board gave no explanation.

The board approved the request at its Nov. 4 meeting. Minutes from the meeting give no explanation for the leave, but state that Harshbarger requests "that people respect the confidentiality of the situation."

Harshbarger was named the fire district's first full-time chief in 1994. The department made 1,571 runs in 2002, according to its Web site, and has a paid staff of about 30.

Fire District Chairman Frank Tepe and Vice Chairman James Dolwick did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Steve Martin, the fire district board's attorney, said he could not say more than was contained in Harshbarger's personnel file.

Harshbarger's personnel file contains nothing but glowing accolades for the married father of two. The chief's annual pay has increased from $51,500 in 1999 to $73,002 for the current fiscal year.

Last month, the growing fire district was awarded the Greater Cincinnati Firehouse of the Year.

Assistant chiefs Dan Hitzfield and David Perkins are overseeing the department in the chief's absence.

Harshbarger, who couldn't be reached for comment, worked as a truck driver for Roadway Express before becoming chief. He also served as a volunteer chief and emergency medical technician.

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E-mail jhannah@enquirer.com




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