Polivka testifies about Heltzel's behavior



A prosecutor wanted to question the ex-administrator, who did not attend.
By ED RUNYAN
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka apologized for answering slowly and deliberately when asked about fellow Commissioner Paul Heltzel's behavior during the "rocky July" of 2006, but said such questions put him in a difficult position.
"That is my colleague," Polivka said. Though he and Heltzel have been at odds a few times, Polivka added he hates to jeopardize the good rapport in the commissioners' office right now.
Polivka received a subpoena to testify under oath at a hearing Wednesday before the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Board over the unemployment compensation claim of Tony Carson Jr., the county administrator who resigned abruptly July 26.
Asked by hearing officer R. Keller Rohde about his knowledge of events in July between Carson, Heltzel and others, Polivka said he:
Believed Heltzel had treated people in a manner that was inappropriate and that Heltzel sometimes yelled.
Had not heard Heltzel swear, but had been told by office staff about swearing.
Asked whether he thought Carson was justified in quitting, Polivka said, "I think that's up to the individual and the tolerance he can take."
Carson's October testimony
Wednesday's hearing was a continuation of testimony that began Oct. 17, 2006. On that day, Carson testified to treatment by Heltzel: verbal assaults punctuated by screaming, irrational behavior and vulgarity. Carson said that led to his resignation.
The county requested the hearing by appealing Carson's compensation award.
The Bureau of Unemployment Compensation awarded Carson benefits of 416 per week for up to 26 weeks, which would mean his benefits run out in early February. County officials say that if Carson loses on appeal, he would be required to pay back the benefits money.
Polivka was the only witness called Wednesday by Carson's attorney, Jeff Goodman of Warren. Jeff Adler, assistant county prosecutor, called one witness also, James Keating, the county's personnel director.
Keating testified that no county union employee had filed a grievance against Heltzel, nor had any nonunion employee filed a complaint against him with the Ohio Board of Personnel Review.
Keating, who has worked directly under the commissioners for about 15 years, said no employee, including Carson, had ever complained about Heltzel's treatment of them. Heltzel has been commissioner since the beginning of 2005.
No-show
Carson did not appear for Wednesday's hearing, Goodman said, because he was having a third job interview in California. Rohde said he recently denied Goodman's request to have Wednesday's hearing postponed because it was the third time Carson had requested a postponement for similar reasons.
Adler said he had intended to question Carson.
Rohde said he would rule on the case and notify the parties of his decision.
Adler, in a closing statement, told Rohde that Carson's own testimony made it clear that Heltzel's treatment of Carson did not require Carson to do anything illegal or unethical -- and that Carson had failed to prove that Heltzel's actions created a hostile working environment.
Moreover, Carson had never addressed the problem with Heltzel directly, Adler said, and the conflict Carson had with Heltzel was limited to seven working days in July. The rest of the days that month were either weekends, holidays or days when Carson was in union negotiations the whole day, he said.
Carson had worked with Heltzel without problems for 19 months before July, Adler said.
runyan@vindy.com

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