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Northville Township — The cause for last month’s sudden exit of the township’s veteran fire chief remains up in the air — or at least is not being discussed publicly.

Richard Marinucci Jr. either voluntarily resigned his $116,000 a year post March 18, or was pushed out for still unexplained reasons.

Speculation about what led to the move is fueled by anonymous emails sent to several Metro Detroit news agencies. One email received by The Detroit News even alleged Marinucci was escorted out of the fire department’s offices last month — which he adamantly denies.

“He has resigned and beyond that it is a personnel matter and we don’t discuss personnel matters,” said John Werth, the township’s director of public safety who supervises the 30-member fire department and is now its acting chief.

Township Manager Chip Snider echoed that stance when asked to comment.

As appointed fire chief, Marinucci was an at-will employee, meaning his employment could be terminated at any time without explanation.

“I don’t care what anyone is saying, I never submitted my resignation,” Marinucci said. “I’ve heard some of the rumors and none of it is true ... We had a brief discussion and I was told not to report to work.”

Marinucci declined to elaborate on his last conversation with township officials.

His attorney, Jill Schinske, said she is investigating all events leading up to her client “being forced out in a very strange manner.”

“They claim he resigned but he never did, yet they have made public statements to that effect,” she said.

“None of it is clear and we plan to pursue this and decide what happens next,” she said, implying a lawsuit is under consideration.

Marinucci, 62, has been a well-known figure within the firefighting community for four decades. He became Northville Township’s fire chief eight years ago after 32 years with the Farmington Hills fire department, 24 spent as chief.

He has headed numerous professional firefighter groups, including as president of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and as executive director of the Fire Department Safety Officers Association, a national nonprofit group that promotes safety standards and practices.

Schinske said Marinucci has regularly received positive evaluations and pay raises from the township.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319

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