Court administrator fired over sexual harassment complaints

By Patricia Meade

The administrator could not be effective if he stayed, a judge said.

YOUNGSTOWN — After 11 months, Kevin Ward’s employment as Youngstown Municipal Court administrator has ended in the wake of a sexual harassment investigation.

A letter notifying Ward was mailed Thursday and a copy hand-delivered to his home, said Judge Robert P. Milich.

Judges Milich, Elizabeth A. Kobly and Robert A. Douglas Jr. met Wednesday afternoon to discuss written statements given by Ward and women in the probation department who filed a sexual harassment complaint against him several months ago. The statements were part of an investigation by the law department.

After the judges’ meeting, Ward was called in and given the opportunity to resign and the judges thought he would, Judge Milich said. Ward, however, later left a message with his office that he would not resign, the judge said.

Reached Thursday, Ward said the result exceeded the offense.

“The entire issue came up over word choice. No one needed to fear being in a room with me, there was no physical contact,” Ward said. “I’m an at-will employee, there’s no recourse, the judges have the final say. There’s no animosity.”

Ward, 48, was hired July 9, 2007, and paid $57,605. He had been Alliance Municipal Clerk of Court, earning $36,576.

“After we investigated the complaint of sexual harassment and evaluated his performance, there was no way he could continue and be effective,” Judge Milich said. “In the interest of the court, he couldn’t continue.”

The job of court administrator includes supervision of women in the probation department, something Ward would not be able to do effectively now, the judge said.

Supervision of the probation department — five women employees — was assumed by Judge Douglas, the court’s presiding/administrative judge, after the sexual harassment complaint was filed in March. In May, Judge Douglas said that if Ward remained on the job, he would have to take sensitivity training and would no longer supervise the probation department.

Thursday, Judge Douglas referred questions to Judge Milich.

Judge Milich said a court administrator has to be proactive to keep current with ever-changing rules from the Ohio Supreme Court. Ward, the judge said, never took the initiative to be proactive.

Ward, in his statement for the law department, said most of his comments were a retelling of real-life situations and not inappropriate given the context. He told The Vindicator last month that the women found offensive some of the words he chose to describe the situations.

Ward remained employed by Alliance until Oct. 24, 2007, when Judge Kobly found out he was holding two jobs and told him to quit. He resigned in Alliance that day.

Judge Douglas said last month that he was aware of Ward’s continued employment in Alliance, saying it was part-time and would have ended at the end of last year. Ward told The Vindicator last month that he was working in Youngstown during the day and in Alliance in the evenings. He described it as a transition period.

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