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Ohio State University v. Kyle

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

October 24, 2006

Ohio State University, Appellee-Appellee,
v.
William J. Kyle, Appellant-Appellant.

APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas C.P.C. No. 05CVF-07-7912.

Jim Petro, Attorney General, and Sloan T. Spalding, for appellee.

Michael A. Moses, for appellant.

OPINION

BRYANT, J.

{¶1} Appellant, William J. Kyle, appeals from a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas that reversed the order of the State Personnel Review Board ("board") reinstating appellant's employment with appellee, Ohio State University ("OSU").

Appellant assigns a single error:

THE DECISION OF THE LOWER COURT REVERSING THE STATE PERSONNEL BOARD OF REVIEW WAS AN ABUSE OF DISCRETION INSOFAR AS THE ORDER OF THE BOARD DIRECTING THE REINSTATEMENT OF WILLIAM KYLE TO HIS POSITION WAS SUPPORTED BY RELIABLE, PROBATIVE AND SUBSTANTIAL EVIDENCE AND WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW. Because the common pleas court improperly substituted its judgment for that of the board, we reverse.

{¶2} In January 2001, OSU hired appellant as an Account Clerk 2 for the Office of Student Accounting and Reconciliations, a position under the Office of the Treasurer. Prior to being hired, appellant worked as a custodian for OSU, but he had nearly ten years of experience in the accounting field, including eight years of working for the State of Ohio. As a result of his experience, appellant is familiar with basic accounting principles and ethics.

{¶3} During his tenure at OSU, appellant's immediate supervisor was Richard Givens. Appellant and his only co-worker, Chrissie Byrum, held positions under the same title, but Givens referred to Byrum as the "lead clerk, " and appellant assumed Byrum was his superior rather than his equal. Givens informed appellant during orientation that if he were unable to ask Givens or Byrum a question, he could ask Valerie Parish, Supervisor for the Office of Bank Reconciliations.

{¶4} As a result of an internal audit and subsequent investigation, OSU terminated Givens, Byrum, and Parish from their employment. The investigation revealed that Parish embezzled over $30, 000 from OSU. Appellant's employment also was ended; his removal order stated he was terminated for dishonesty and neglect of duty. Specifically, the order alleged that appellant (1) violated the Office of the Treasurer procedures in cashing personal checks for Parish on at least two occasions in Student Accounting and Reconciliations, an area that is not authorized to perform such transactions; (2) intentionally posted incorrect entries into the general ledger to support the unauthorized check cashing; and (3) cashed at least one personal check for himself backed by insufficient funds and failed to abide by normal procedures to repay the money.

{¶5} A hearing was held before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The parties stipulated that (1) appellant improperly cashed one personal check in the amount of $200 on June 25, 2003; (2) the check was returned for insufficient funding; (3) appellant repaid the amount, but did not do so through the proper channels; and (4) appellant did not pay the insufficient fund penalty.

{¶6} At the hearing, appellant testified he was aware that, because he handled cash on a daily basis, his position required a high level of security. Appellant's essential duties consisted of calculating daily cash and check totals, making daily deposits, balancing the deposits to the Billing and Accounts Receivable System ("BARS"), and reconciling monthly OSU's general ledger system ("ARMS") with the BARS total. The BARS system fed the general ledger system and separated the amount of cash received for a given day from the amount of checks received.

{¶7} The first two transactions referenced in the removal order involve appellant's participation in cashing Parish's personal checks and posting incorrect journal entries regarding same. Explaining his duty of totaling daily balances, appellant stated that OSU's BARS system separates the total amount of cash received from the total amount of checks received. Appellant was required to calculate separately the amount of cash and checks and compare the totals with the BARS report. If the totals did not match, appellant investigated the reason for the discrepancy. Importantly, appellant testified that his supervisor, Givens, as well as Parish, informed him that as long as the combined total of cash and checks matched the BARS report, the funds were considered balanced. Appellant therefore believed that the failure of the total amount of actual cash to match the BARS report of actual cash was not significant. Appellant further stated that many times when he compared the BARS to ARMS with Givens, Givens told him certain items were correct even when appellant felt a discrepancy existed.

{¶8} Appellant testified he witnessed co-worker Byrum cash personal checks for Givens and Parish, through appellant's office, on at least 20 occasions; appellant could not recall specific amounts. Appellant testified that Parish would contact him, ask about the amount of cash he had for the deposit, and then write a personal check for slightly less than the stated amount. Appellant testified he never personally cashed the checks for Parish or Givens. Appellant, however, posted incorrect journal entries regarding two of Parish's personal checks, one for $1, 350 and one for $1, 200. Essentially, appellant's ...


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