Heltzel's action caused vomiting, Carson says
None of the office workers confirmed the story about vomiting from fear.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- A one-hour hearing was only enough time for former Trumbull County Administrator Tony Carson Jr. to tell a hearing officer that his ex-boss, Commissioner Paul Heltzel, had gone on profanity-laced tirades in July that caused one employee to vomit.
The hearing, held Tuesday before the Unemployment Compensation Review Board to decide whether Carson qualifies for unemployment benefits of 416 per week, could not be completed during the allotted time. A longer hearing will be scheduled later to complete testimony.
Carson, who abruptly resigned July 26 without comment, told hearing officer R. Keller Rohde that Heltzel had directed many verbal assaults at him in July punctuated by screaming, irrational behavior and vulgarity.
But Carson emphasized that Heltzel's behavior had a profound effect on the six female employees at the commissioners' office because much of it occurred in areas where the staff could see or hear what was being said.
"We had an employee who would go into the restroom and throw up" because of her fear of Heltzel, Carson said, explaining that such fear came from not knowing what Heltzel might do next. An employee was also in fear that she might have to quit rather than listen to such language.
"An employee said they wouldn't let their father or husband talk to them that way and they wouldn't let him talk that way either," Carson said.
Commissioners' Clerk Paulette Godfrey, asked last week about Heltzel's behavior, said there were two times in July when Heltzel appeared to be upset -- once when Heltzel complained about work she and Carson failed to complete on time, and the other time being the day Carson resigned. She acknowledged that Heltzel's behavior a couple of times did cause some of the women to become "uneasy."
In response to comments about his behavior in recent months, Heltzel has said, "If I do [upset people], I apologize, but I have never threatened an employee with their job."
After the hearing, Heltzel and Commissioner James Tsagaris said they were not aware of any employee throwing up because of Heltzel. Commissioner Dan Polivka said he had no comment.
Four of the six employees were asked by The Vindicator on Tuesday if they knew whether one of them had thrown up because of Heltzel or considered quitting because of the way he talked to them. Three said they were unfamiliar with the story and one said she had no comment. The other two were off work Tuesday and could not be reached to comment.
Jason Earnhart, assistant Trumbull County prosecutor, said he would have two to three witnesses to call for the county, which appealed Carson's application for unemployment. He said he would also like to cross-examine Carson at the next hearing.
The hearing was held because county commissioners appealed a decision by the Office of Unemployment Compensation, which said Carson left his job for "just cause" and was entitled to benefits.
Atty. Jeff Goodman, representing Carson, said he would like to present about two more witnesses. Goodman said he subpoenaed Polivka and Tsagaris to testify at the hearing.
Meanwhile, Heltzel said he is considering legal action in light of a statement issued by the Office of Unemployment Compensation that said Carson was granted unemployment benefits because Carson had been required to commit illegal or unethical acts.
After obtaining a copy of all documentation that went along with Carson's benefits application, Heltzel and Earnhart have concluded that Carson never accused anyone of making him commit illegal or unethical acts. Carson did not mention anything about illegal or unethical acts during his testimony.
Carson testified that he felt the need to protect employees working directly under him and that by continuing to work as county administrator, it could appear he was condoning Heltzel's behavior. "If any employee would bring a suit against the county, they would also bring suit against me as their immediate supervisor," Carson said.
After confirming that two of the six women are working under a union contract, Rohde asked why the employees wouldn't have filed a complaint with their union. Carson said they feared retaliation.
Carson told Rohde about discussing Heltzel's behavior with Polivka and Tsagaris, but said he didn't think the two commissioners took the matter very seriously. Tsagaris agreed after the hearing that he thought the two men would work out the matter on their own.
When Rohde asked Carson whether he had addressed his concerns about Heltzel's behavior with Heltzel, Carson said, "That's not something I would do."