But members reject his attempt to return to the department
The former Hahnville fire chief who alleged he’d been threatened for exposing fraud in a wrongful termination lawsuit has dropped his suit and attempted to return to the department.
“I dropped the lawsuit against them because of the majority of people [involved in the case] have left,” said Stanley Wajda, who resigned after 13 years with the department.
Wajda also hoped he could return to the department, but the current members still rejected his application in a 6 to 3 vote.
In a whirlwind of controversy, he left his position as fire chief that he had held for seven months in 2014. Wajda claimed he was forced to step down amid threats and harassment after initiating an investigation into the “misuse of FEMA payments and other improprieties by the former administration.”
He maintained threatening letters were left on his vehicle and photos taken anonymously of him and his family with the words “Stanley, you need to leave my family alone. Or else!!!!”
Former Parish President Chris Tregre also suspected wrongdoing and suggested bringing in the Louisiana Legislative Auditor to investigate. Also, department member Dwayne Tregre resisted accepting Wajda’s resignation at the time, maintaining Wajda “did nothing wrong.”
Wajda’s departure followed only a week after the Herald-Guide’s public information request revealed department members, including then Fire Chief Reginald Gaubert, were under investigation by the Louisiana Board of Ethics. Wajda also has been investigating questionable financial activity there, including missing items bought with a FEMA grant.
“The only reason for the denial to return was being a whistleblower and trying to make a difference with the department,” Wajda said.
But Hahnville Chief Matthew Allshouse, who took over from Chris Boros who headed of the department at the time of the case, said the denial was based on Wajda’s claims being unfounded.
“If it’s pertaining to his denial of membership, I would say some of it stems from the things that were claimed against the department,” Allshouse said. “There were some driving factors with some of the membership around at that time, but ultimately the consensus of the membership was denial of his application.”
Allshouse said Wajda’s accusations hurt the department’s reputation.
“I would say a negative image of the department that I don’t think was just,” he said.
But Allshouse, who was assistant chief at the time of the dispute, maintained he would support anyone with a legitimate claim against the department, but could find no merit or proof to substantiate those made by Wajda. He further said they did request the forensic audit, but didn’t get a response to date.
“I would say the actions were due to there being no evidence of wrong doing that I could see,” he said.
Although membership has changed, Allshouse said there are still some members – active and lifetime – remaining that Wajda made claims against who voted against his return. Hahnville’s fire department has 23 members.
But Wajda said, even though he dropped the suit, he still stands by his allegations and that a “clique” in the department is keeping him out.
“Nobody wanted to take steps to do what needs to be done,” he said.
Wajda maintained he just wants to be back with the Hahnville Volunteer Fire Department for his community.
His past with the department dates back to 2002 when he started as a volunteer and worked his way to assistant chief, but resigned from that position in 2011, also amid controversy. A year later, he again returned as a volunteer and was named chief by January of 2014.
“I care for my community,” he said. “I can talk to the people and they know me, being in our community a long time. I care when I see one or two guys at a fire fight. They need more help, and it’s something I’m passionate about and love doing.”