Middletown fire captain quit before city could mete out discipline

VanArsdale:’It’s unfortunate his career ended this way’

Before the city could possibly discipline Middletown fire Capt. Greg Justice, including termination, he submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday, city officials said.

In his July 15 resignation letter that was obtained by the Journal-News, Justice wrote: “Dear Chief (Paul) Lolli, I will be retiring effective July 15, 2015. Sincerely, Greg Justice.”

The letter was signed by Lolli, who wrote that he “recommended acceptance” of the resignation, and the letter was accepted and signed by Middletown City Manager Doug Adkins.

When asked why Justice, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 336, was allowed to resign instead of being terminated, City Law Director Les Landen said the “process” toward disciplining Justice had begun, which would have included notices and hearings. He said there was nothing the city could do to stop Justice from resigning.

“It’s not like you can say, ‘You can’t resign. We want to fire you,’” Landen said.

David VanArsdale, the city’s public safety director, agreed: “If somebody wants to quit, you can’t tell them they can’t quit. That was his choice.”

Justice didn’t return calls Thursday seeking comment.

Landen said a hearing was scheduled for last week, but Justice’s representative asked for a continuance.

Justice, 52, of Springboro, a 25-year veteran of the fire department, was indicted Friday on three counts of forgery, a fifth-degree felony, and two counts of tampering with records, a third-degree felony, in connection with allegedly submitting a fake doctor’s note to allow him to stay home rather that return to light duty. He was arraigned the same day by Butler County Common Pleas Judge Jennifer McElfresh and released on his own recognizance. He is scheduled to be back in court for a pre-trial hearing on Aug. 6.

He has been on paid administrative leave since June 30. He was accused of forging his doctor’s signature on medical records to extend the time that he could stay home on injured leave. Middletown police originally investigated an allegation that he received nearly $3,000 in compensation for time he should not have been on leave, but Butler County Prosecutor Michael Gmoser said that is not the basis of the alleged crimes.

“It’s unfortunate that his career ended this way,” VanArsdale said. “But we have to police ourselves and take care of ourselves. We have to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ money.”

Now that Justice has resigned, the city is looking to fill two fire captain positions: Justice’s job and the one created when Lolli was named captain after fire Chief Steve Botts resigned in September 2014 and took an assistant fire chief position with the Mason fire department, VanArsdale said. He said captain candidates took a written civil exam last week and the results will be known by the end of July, he said.

VanArsdale said he didn’t want to comment about what, if any, impact Justice’s retirement would have on negotiations with the city and fire union. Chris Klug, union vice president, was unavailable for comment.

Staff writer Lauren Pack contributed to this report.

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