Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Ex-administrator must repay jobless benefits
The former administrator failed to prove the commissioner would be able to get him fired.
By ED RUNYAN
WARREN Former Trumbull County Administrator Tony Carson Jr. will have to repay $9,568 in unemployment compensation benefits.
The Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission has ruled that Carson resigned last July without just cause.
R. Keller Rohde, a hearing officer with the commission, said in a decision received by the county Monday that Carson was not justified in quitting because of the behavior of Commissioner Paul Heltzel.
"Mr. Heltzel, during the last month of [Carson's] employment, was demanding, abrasive, vulgar and loud," the report submitted with its decision said. "It is understandable [Carson] did not care for the way Mr. Heltzel treated him and the other employees. That does not necessarily mean, however, that [Carson] was reasonably justified in quitting."
The decision said Carson failed to demonstrate there was any likelihood he'd be held responsible for the way Heltzel behaved toward staff members working under Carson at the commissioner's office.
It said Carson also failed to demonstrate that Heltzel would have been able to get him fired, because Carson had support from Commissioners Dan Polivka and James Tsagaris.
It added that Carson failed to make a reasonable effort to resolve the conflict between him and Heltzel by speaking directly with Heltzel about it.
Carson received unemployment benefits of $9,568 through Jan. 20 and will have to repay those, the decision said.
Resigned in July
Carson abruptly resigned July 26, 2006. This was after being summoned to the commissioners' office and learning that Heltzel was unhappy with him for failing to complete a task he'd asked of him that day.
Carson, of Cortland, could not be reached to comment on whether he would appeal the decision.
"This was a straight quit from the get-go," Heltzel said, adding that unemployment is normally not granted to someone who quits his job unless he can meet a legal definition for just cause.
Heltzel said Carson was "clever enough" to use the right words in his unemployment claim but was unable to support the claims at his hearing.
"It's the right decision," Heltzel said.
The decision says Carson must repay the $9,568 within 45 days of Jan. 25. It notes that Carson can appeal to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission by Feb. 15.
Carson started working for Trumbull County in March 1998. He became county administrator in January 2004 and was set to earn $62,568 plus fringe benefits in 2006.
Benefits were approved
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services approved benefits of $416 per week for 26 weeks up to a maximum of $10,816 to Carson in August, saying in an initial determination that Carson had quit for just cause relating to his being asked to do something illegal or unethical.
The commissioners voted 3-0 to appeal the ruling in part, they said, to find out what type of illegal or unethical acts Carson claimed to have been forced to commit.
During two hearings held before Rohde at the review commission's Youngstown office, however, no testimony indicated any such illegal or unethical acts, Rohde wrote in his decision.
The decision noted that Carson's complaints about the way Heltzel treated him pertained only to events from July 2006.
That month was evidently a difficult one for the Trumbull County commissioners, and apparently caused outbursts from Heltzel, the decision said.
"The outbursts might well have ended on their own had [Carson] allowed time to pass until either the [commissioners'] circumstances improved, resulting in less stress for Mr. Heltzel, or Mr. Heltzel found a better way of dealing with his stress," the decision added.