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Firing in Youngstown sparks charge of bias



Published: Mon, February 21, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.

I was terminated because I’m white, ex-city worker says

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A former 20-year city employee, fired after an arrest, is suing Youngstown and Mayor Jay Williams saying he lost his job because he’s white.

The lawsuit filed by an attorney for Robert Kauffman of West Boston Avenue acknowledges the former Water Department worker was fired for failing to report the loss of his driver’s license, failing to maintain a license, possession of drugs and sick-leave abuse.

But Thomas N. Michaels of Poland, Kauffman’s attorney, wrote in the lawsuit that the firing was “motivated based on [his client’s] race” and that black employees who “engaged in the same or similar conduct” were “not terminated from their employment.”

Kauffman, 56, wants to be reinstated to his job that paid him $42,998.28 in annual base-pay salary. He is also seeking compensatory damages for lost wages, salary benefits, lost retirement and lost seniority as well as money for his “mental anguish and pain and suffering,” according to the lawsuit.

In 2008, his last full year with the city, Kauffman received $53,932.51 in base-pay, overtime, longevity pay and a uniform allowance.

Williams said Kauffman wasn’t fired because of race.

“We terminate when justified regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic” status, Williams said. “When people violate city policy and commit crimes, we terminate them.”

City Law Director Iris Torres Guglucello said four others were fired by the city in the past couple of years for failing to report the loss of their driver’s license and failing to maintain a license. Of the other four, three are black, she said.

“The city has been enforcing that provision [included in union contracts two years ago] regardless of race of the individual involved,” she said.

Repeated attempts by The Vindicator to contact Michaels and Kauffman were unsuccessful.

The civil lawsuit was assigned to Judge R. Scott Krichbaum of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.

The city’s personnel file of Kauffman, hired Aug. 15, 1988, is filled with reprimands, including several suspensions, and W2 forms that show his annual salary increase from $18,132.30 in 1989, his first full year with the city’s water department as a laborer, to $53,932.51 in 2008, his last full year as an engineering aide II. He was promoted to that job Dec. 30, 2005.

An engineering aide II is responsible for marking the city’s water lines for projects done by other agencies, checking water leaks and pipe breaks, and responding to odor and taste complaints, said Eugene Leson Jr., the department’s chief engineer.

A review by The Vindicator of Kauffman’s personnel file shows he was suspended six times between April 1997 and February 2009 for a total of about 75 unpaid days. He was also not paid for 22 days between June 2004 and May 2007 for unexcused absences.

The suspensions were for being repeatedly absent for work without legitimate reasons, testing positive twice “for an illegal substance,” using city equipment and materials on city time to patch the private parking lot of a Belmont Avenue restaurant, and being arrested for felony possession of drugs, cocaine, and driving under the influence.

The last one led the city to fire Kauffman.

Kaufmann’s car hit a curb, flattening a tire, on Mahoning Avenue, near Glenwood Avenue, at 2:23 a.m. Jan. 4, 2009, according to a police report.

After his car hit a curb, Kauffman got out and threw a bag of cocaine underneath it, according to the report. His blood-alcohol-content was 0.202, more than two times the legal limit of 0.08, the report states.

While at the county jail, Kauffman had someone call him off work as being sick, and he then called in sick from Jan. 6 to 16, according to his personnel file.

Kauffman was found guilty in June 2009 by Common Pleas Court Judge Maureen A. Sweeney of a lesser charge of permitting drug abuse, a first-degree misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 180 days in the Mahoning County jail and a $1,000 fine. The jail sentence was suspended as was half of the fine with Kauffman placed on a year of probation.

Kauffman went to common pleas court seeking to vacate an arbitrator’s decision agreeing that the city had the right to fire him. Magistrate Daniel P. Dascenzo rejected Kauffman’s motion to dismiss that decision in September 2010. A month later, Judge Lou A. D’Apolito adopted the magistrate’s decision.


Comments

1Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"The lawsuit filed by an attorney for Robert Kauffman of West Boston Avenue acknowledges the former Water Department worker was fired for failing to report the loss of his driver’s license, failing to maintain a license, possession of drugs and sick-leave abuse"

Stupidity is a virtue when it comes to drug usage !

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2foxyglo(372 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

SUCK it up, get OVER it, now u see how blks feel when they are targeted. u know u should of had ur license, don't do drugs. DON'T USE THIS FOR AN EXCUSE, OR ARE U JUST PLAIN EMBARRESSED HUH ????????????

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3tiger09roar(9 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Since we are looking at total TRANSPARENTCY, Management and Affiliates at the Water Department better CHECK the GLASS HOUSE!! The total running of this department is a Joke! Its not just the situation with Robert Kauffman, GET REAL!!

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4fcb(323 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

The guy is a professional "None Worker" ! You want to play,you got to pay. You had a good job,and through your greed and selfishness you lost it. don't try to say it was because you are white. With a work record like that I would have fired you a long time ago. The city has to do a better job of screening future employees. Oh Yea, why the hell do city water department employees need money for uniforms.

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5palbubba(664 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

What a joke. This man was fired way too late. He should have been fired years ago. This is not an isolated incident with government workers being overpaid with way too many benefits and still not wanting to work. How could the city have allowed this horrible work record just go on and on, great management skills. Now a whole lot of money, time and effort will have to be spent(paid for by taxpayers) because this jerk wants paid without conforming. He should sue the city for being an enabler and not firing him long ago.

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6Lifes2Short(3877 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

".....testing positive twice “for an illegal substance,”

TWICE. He should've got fired after the 1st drop was positive. I thought city workers had a 0% drug policy?

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7Morrigan(83 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

What a jerk. Playing the "race card?"
If I had tested dirty at my job, I'd have been unemployed the next day. To take chances like that with a good paying job just shows how much of an idiot this guy is. What a bunch of BS!

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8Silence_Dogood(1342 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"does his attorney really think he can win?"

Heck no, his Lawyer knows full well he will lose, but he still gets to bill this moron and he will get paid, win or lose.

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9RFederer(116 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Wow, the guy kept getting suspended and written up for numerous violations and yet he kept getting promoted. Only in the public sector.

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10tiger09roar(9 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Water Department get your ACT together!! Robert Kauffman get YOUR ACT together!! MOVE ON!! We all should be so done with this STORY. Another waste of TIME. There are more pressing issues to DEAL with.

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11ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Race issues?? As someone under 25, boooooooorrrrrrrriiiiiiinnnnnnnnngggggggg

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12Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"While at the county jail, Kauffman had someone call him off work as being sick, and he then called in sick from Jan. 6 to 16, according to his personnel file."

He does have friends !

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13tiger09roar(9 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Not sure if that was a Friend or a Boss!! NOT CLEAR!

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14Askmeificare(700 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Drug test every City of Youngstown employee and if they test positive go through the process until they can be terminated.

The new hires can be hired at a lesser rate and save the city money and appreciate their job.

Aren't we all tired of these dead beat drug users!

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15ohboy(1 comment)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Kaufmann deserved to be fired after all of the chances he was given and still continued to get in trouble. However his charge of racial bias by the city is definitely correct. You wouldn't believe the bs that goes on there. I don't blame him for suing, but he won't get anywhere. I hope he can get his act together and he is better off not working for the city.

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16tiger09roar(9 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

It's a SAD situation all the WAY around, Kauffman needs to move forward!! ! Management needs replaced...

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17Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

"In 2008, his last full year with the city, Kauffman received $53,932.51 in base-pay, overtime, longevity pay and a uniform allowance"

Too much disposable income resulted in his entertaining himself with drug usage . He should sue the city for being overpaid .

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18TigerSis11(3 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

Regardless of what the city worker did, how is EVERYONE missing the fact that it is illegal to look at a person's file and then to publish it! Any comments?

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19Silence_Dogood(1342 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

TigerSis11 are you making up laws? "how is EVERYONE missing the fact that it is illegal to look at a person's file and then to publish it!"
These are public records of public employees,they work for us afterall.Its called freedom of information.

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20TigerSis11(3 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

To my knowledge, "personnel files" are not for public record. That would mean anyone would have access to anyone's file.

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21Stan(9923 comments)posted 3 years, 7 months ago

There is no shield for criminal conduct . . ..

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