Nelsonville’s Former Fire Chief Pleads Guilty To Misdemeanor

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The city's former fire chief pleaded guilty Friday in Athens County Common Pleas Court to a misdemeanor charge of petty theft, receiving a suspended jail sentence and placed on two years of non-reporting probation.

Richard Russell Jr., 49, also was ordered to pay the city $309 in restitution and seek counsel.

County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn said Russell was accused of using city funds to buy a truck part for his personal vehicle.

"I informed the president of (Nelsonville) Council of the deal and that restitution was ordered," Blackburn said. "It's a quick resolution to the issue. He took responsiblity for his actions."

Blackburn said the case was investigated by his office.

Russell was suspended from his job as fire chief last week, and City Council on Monday approved the appointment of Harry Barber Jr. as interim chief. Russell was terminated from city employment on Tuesday, according to City Manager Mark Hall, after City Council "agreed to it" in executive session Monday.

The city will give a civil service examination for the chief's position on July 21.