Cascade Fire Chief & Deputy Chief on leave following investigation

Posted at 7:46 PM, Mar 15, 2017

CASCADE TWP., Mich-- The chief and deputy fire chief at the Cascade Township Fire Department have been placed on administrative leave.

Township Manager Ben Swayze told FOX 17 Chief John Sigg and Deputy Chief John Shipley were placed on leave on Monday, stemming from an investigation into the fire department's Explorers Program.

Clem Bell, courtesy Kent County.

The news comes after two firefighters with that department have been accused of engaging in sexual acts with a teenage girl and exchanging nude photos.

Clem Bell was arrested in January, accused of having sex with a 16-year-old girl and exchanging sexually explicit photos with her, which police say he saved on a device for future use. Investigators say he knew the alleged victim since April 2016, and that she had been a member of the department's Explorers Program.

Bell is facing several charges and could get life in prison if convicted.

Steven Drake

In February, Steven Drake, an on-call firefighter with the department was charged with two counts of sexually abusive material/activity and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime. Investigators say he had a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old girl who was a member of the Explorers Program and exchanged inappropriate photos with her.

Investigators have not said if the same 16-year-old girl was involved in both cases.

On Wednesday, Swayze told FOX 17 that while the investigation didn't indicate anyone else in the department or township were involved in the activities that led to the charges against Bell and Drake, it did highlight several deficiencies in policies and procedures, which the township says it has begun to correct.

Swayze also said the township is reviewing its training policies to ensure all township employees understand what performance is expected of them.

In an email to FOX 17, Swayze said:

It is extremely unfortunate that the irresponsible actions of former employees Clem Bell and Steve Drake should cast such a shadow over the Fire Department as a whole, but they have. I want to reiterate that I support the Department completely. Our firefighters do tremendous work in our community each and every day, and we are grateful for their hard work and dedication. As a Department and a Township, we will work to focus our priorities on ensuring the safety of residents and visitors.

Deputy Chief John Shipley told FOX 17 he was told by the township not to talk to the press, but he gave us a statement anyway. He said he expects to be fired on Friday during his meeting with Swayze.

"Today's actions or this weekend's actions are a combination of two past errors of mankind. One is the Salem witch hunt and the other is the great Roman emperor who threw slaves into the ring," said Shipley.

Shipley said he knows the township manager had a meeting with the fire department on Monday, and says he and the Chief were told not to attend. According to Shipley, the staff was told by Swayze that his decision was made up and the Chief and Deputy Chief would be fired.

Shipley said he never knew about the photos although he did work closely with the Explorers program.

"I expect to get my walking papers on Friday after 46 years of service," said Shipley.

Shipley said he will seek legal counsel.

Shipley will still keep his position as Township Trustee.