Nelsonville Fire Chief Placed On Leave

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An interim Nelsonville fire chief was appointed Monday evening after chief Dean Russell was placed on unpaid administrative leave last week.

Following an executive session during Nelsonville City Council's meeting on Monday, Nelsonville Law Director Garry Hunter announced that Russell was placed on unpaid administrative leave last Wednesday. Russell has been with the city's fire department for the past 25 years.

"It's due to a discrepancy on a purchase order," Hunter said, adding that the matter has been referred to the Athens County Prosecutor's Office to determine if criminal charges are warranted.

Hunter recommended that Nelsonville City Manager Mark Hall appoint an interim fire chief until the matter is fully resolved. Hall recommended that Harry Barber Jr. be appointed to the position. All Council members voted to support Hall's recommendation. Councilman Corey Taylor was not present during Monday's meeting.

Russell confirmed with The Messenger that he had left the department, but did not say he was on administrative leave.

"With my health the way it is, I have almost 25 years in," Russell wrote in a text message sent Monday. "Time to relax."

He said he didn't want to comment further on the situation.

After he was officially placed on administrative leave, Russell was asked via text message if he had anything else he wanted to say.

"No comment," Russell said.

Barber also declined to comment on the situation.