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Village of Bellaire v. State of Ohio Unemployment Compensation Review Commission

September 26, 2011

VILLAGE OF BELLAIRE,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF OHIO UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION REVIEW COMMISSION, ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



CHARACTER OF PROCEEDINGS: Civil Appeal from Common Pleas Court, Case No. 09CV91.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Vukovich, J.

Cite as Bellaire v. Ohio Unemp. Comp. Rev. Comm.,

OPINION

JUDGMENT: Affirmed.

JUDGES: Hon. Joseph J. Vukovich Hon. Gene Donofrio Hon. Cheryl L. Waite

¶{1} Appellant Village of Bellaire appeals the decision of the Belmont County Common Pleas Court affirming the decision of the State of Ohio Unemployment Review Commission which allowed appellee Michael Bumgardner unemployment benefits.

¶{2} The Village of Bellaire contends that the Hearing Officer from the Ohio Unemployment Review Commission found that there was some fault on the part of Bumgardner and thus, its decision that there was no just cause for his termination is unlawful. It also asserts that the decision is unreasonable because the evidence does not support a finding of no just cause. Bumgardner and appellee Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJS) disagree with the Village's position by contending that the termination was not justifiable.

¶{3} For the reasons expressed more fully below, we hold that the Hearing Officer did not find that the employee's conduct constituted "fault" for purposes of a just cause termination. Likewise, as there was some competent evidence to support the Hearing Officer's decision, the decision is not against the manifest weight of the evidence. Therefore, the judgment of the trial court is hereby affirmed.

STATEMENT OF CASE

¶{4} Bumgardner was employed by the Village of Bellaire from September 1986 until July 9, 2008. Prior to September 2005, he held the position of heavy equipment operator. At that point he was promoted to service director. In January 2008, he was demoted back to heavy equipment operator. On July 9, 2008 he received a letter from Village Administrator Rebecca George Zwack indicating that his employment with the Village was terminated. That letter specifically stated:

¶{5} "Subsequent to your demotion in January of this year, you have routinely been absent from work. As heavy equipment operator an essential job function is to serve as lead worker over the water crew and while serving in this capacity several water jobs have not been completed and many have posed a serious health and/or safety risk to residents."

¶{6} Following his termination, he appealed the termination through the means provided in the Village's Employee Handbook. He also filed an Application for Determination of Benefit Rights with Appellee Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). ODJFS determined that he was terminated without just cause and allowed him unemployment benefits. The Village appealed the decision and the director for the Office of Unemployment Compensation affirmed the decision. The Village asked for a redetermination and the director affirmed the decision again.

¶{7} The Village of Bellaire then appealed the decision to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission for review by a hearing officer. A hearing was held at which testimony and evidence were taken, which included alleged problems with Bumgardner's work performance as service director. The core of the testimony, however, concerned three specific water projects that occurred after his demotion to heavy equipment operator - Maple Avenue Project, Indian Run Project and Belmont Community Hospital Project.

ΒΆ{8} Testimony indicated that the Maple Avenue Project required installation of new sewer lines and a ditch was left open for about a month. The Village believed it should have been completed in two weeks. The Indian Run Project was to locate sewer lines so that sewer taps could be installed. The Village was of the opinion that the job should have taken one day instead of three days. The Village Administrator and the Mayor filled in the ditch so that it would not be left open all weekend; employees did not stay overtime to fill in the ditch after the line was fixed. The Bellaire Community Hospital Project involved a leaking water line and the ditch was left open for around three weeks. On none of these jobs was he ...


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