Bogus unemployment claim disallowed for administrator
A hearing officer for the Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission got it right: Former Trumbull County Administrator Tony Carson Jr. quit his job in July and wasn't entitled to the 416 a week in unemployment benefits he's been collecting since.
The remarkable thing is that anyone at the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services fell for Carson's outlandish claim in the first place. Carson resigned with a note saying simply: "I submit my resignation as county administrator effective 7-26-06." With that he walked off the job.
Unemployment compensation was designed as a safety net for employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. It's not there for people who decide that they are angry or upset or put upon and aren't going to take it anymore.
Nonetheless, Carson managed to convince a caseworker at DJFS that he was forced to resign because one of the three county commissioners to whom he answered, Paul Heltzel, was requiring him to perform in a way that would have violated Ohio law. If Carson had any proof of that claim, there's no record of him having produced it.
Carson, it should be remembered, was not a rookie in public employment. Indeed, as the county administrator he made more than 60,000 a year overseeing the work of other employees.
He had options
And yet, when he felt he had a grievance with Heltzel, he never discussed it with him. He didn't approach the other two commissioners -- who were known to support him. He didn't go to James Keating, the county's personnel officer, to say that Heltzel was violating county policies, or to the county prosecutor's office to report that a commissioner was suborning illegal acts of some kind.
No, he just up and quit, and then took a cock and bull story to DJFS supporting his claim for unemployment compensation.
We're glad that all three commissioners agreed to appeal the payments awarded to Carson. On the face of it, Carson's story that Heltzel reduced him to a bowl of quivering jelly when he raised his voice or used naughty words was silly. His claim during the first day of hearings on the county's appeal that Heltzel caused women in the commissioners office to weep and vomit was never substantiated.
The hearing officer, R. Keller Rohde, acknowledged that Heltzel was "demanding, abrasive, vulgar and loud," but ruled that Carson was not justified in quitting.
The ruling makes obvious sense. If every employee in the state could collect benefits after quitting because the boss yelled at him, the DJFS office would be overflowing with new claimants.
Carson can now start digging up the 9,568 he has to repay. And Heltzel might want to work on a management style more appropriate to the office he holds and in line with the expectations taxpayers have when they elect a professional to be county commissioner.