By Scott Smith
Tribune staff writer
Harrison Township Trustee Joyce Ancil removed the elected chief of the Harrison Township Volunteer Fire Department Tuesday and installed her son, Mark Ancil, as the new chief.
The ousted chief, Jerry Eads, is crying foul, saying it was a personal vendetta.
But Joyce Ancil, whose other son, David, sits on the fire corporation board and the township board, said she had to make the move because Eads’ training wasn’t where it needed to be.
“I did it to protect the township. This wasn’t something that was a lot of fun for me to do,” she said Wednesday.
Whether the leadership switch will affect the township’s fire protection remains to be seen. Joyce and Mark Ancil both characterized the move as an internal matter and said fire protection won’t change.
Eads, however, said up to 14 volunteers have resigned from the department in response to his ouster. The Ancils said the number is more like five or six.
“I’m very bitter about it, because I’ve only actually been in office a little over a month, and [Joyce Ancil] has tried three times to get me removed, and on the fourth time, she was successful,” he said.
Joyce Ancil said Eads was told he needed additional training in the National Incident Management System, a core set of doctrine, concepts, principles, terminology and organizational processes for all big emergency incidents.
“He didn’t have the qualifications needed to be chief,” Joyce said. “That put us in a bad spot, because if your chief doesn’t have certain qualifications, you can’t apply for grants.”
Eads said the NIMS training was partially at fault for what happened, but said Joyce Ancil has been trying to get her son installed as chief ever since Mark Ancil lost the chief election back in November.
According to Eads, the firefighters picked him over four other candidates, including Mark Ancil. He said the first election was disputed by the losers, so another election was held about two weeks later.
He said he won the second election on a 22-7 vote over Gary Wysong, who was installed as Mark Ancil’s assistant chief Tuesday. Wysong had been serving as interim chief prior to the election.
Joyce Ancil said she asked Eads to complete the NIMS 300/400 level qualifications, and said he failed to get it done in a timely fashion.
“We needed to change the leadership. This was an internal decision, it has nothing to do with the public,” Joyce said. “It wasn’t just my decision, it was made by several people,” she added.
Eads said he initially thought he had all the NIMS training that he was scheduled to take a class within the next month to get those levels, and said the fire chief isn’t required to have the higher level training, as long as one of his chief officers does.
“The chief can appoint somebody [with that level of training] and I had three officers who had it,” Eads said.
Indiana Department of Homeland Security spokesman John Erickson said the NIMS issue is part of the grant process, but said the state agency will work with local departments to help them get the necessary training.
“[Eads] is correct in saying that if the next two on his department have that training, they’re not going to be penalized, but we’d also encourage him to get that training,” Erickson said.
In addition to ousting Eads, the Ancils also got rid of the deputy chief, Darrell Lutz.
How exactly Joyce Ancil managed to impose her will on the department is another point of dispute.
Both she and Eads agree that she required every volunteer firefighter to re-apply for their own positions at the meeting.
But they differ on whether Joyce Ancil formally dissolved the department.
She claims she threatened to dissolve the department if Mark wasn’t made chief, but never actually took steps to do it.
“I told them we could dissolve the corporation if we needed to, but that would just cost us money, and that it would be a silly thing to do if the same people were going to stay,” she said.
Eads said she followed through on her threat and said she was dissolving the department when the firefighters balked.
For his part, Mark Ancil said he has more than 26 years with the volunteer department. His late father, Charles Ancil, was chief, and both Joyce and David Ancil have served roles on the department.
Asked if she thought ousting Eads and installing her son might look bad, Ancil said she was the elected trustee, and wasn’t trying to “micromanage” the department.
“I don’t know how it looks,” she said. “David [Ancil] is the president of the fire corporation but I had nothing to do with that other than my one vote. I went with the most qualified person [for fire chief] we had.”
Eads said he’s trying to decide what to do next.
“They really tried to backdoor me, big time,” he said. “And I was chief there before and there were no problems, so why now? I’m totally in the dark about it.”
Scott Smith can be reached at 765-454-8569 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.