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Rupert v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

October 31, 2017

Kenneth Rupert, Appellant-Appellant,
v.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Appellee-Appellee.

         APPEAL from the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas (C.P.C. No. 16CV-662)

          James J. Leo Law Office, and James J. Leo, for appellant.

          Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and Tracy M. Nave, for appellee.

          DECISION

          KLATT, J.

         {¶ 1} Appellant, Kenneth Rupert, appeals a judgment of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas that affirmed the order of the State Personnel Board of Review ("Board") modifying the discipline imposed by appellee, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("ODRC"). For the following reasons, we affirm that judgment.

         {¶ 2} From April 2006 to September 2014, Rupert worked as a unit manager at the Toledo Correctional Institution ("TCI"). On September 2, 2014, ODRC removed Rupert from his position. ODRC cited multiple reasons for Rupert's removal, including: (1) he failed to follow a direct order to complete monthly tracking forms, (2) he failed to follow a direct order to ensure that the security threat group committee approved all prisoner bed moves, (3) he failed to complete inventories of TCI's barbershop equipment and supplies, (4) he failed to perform his duties as TCI's coordinator for the Ohio Risk Assessment System ("ORAS"), (5) he failed to keep his unit's portion of the contraband vault tidy and organized, (6) he failed to upload minutes from weekly unit meetings and quarterly town hall meetings to TCI's intranet.

         {¶ 3} Rupert appealed his removal to the Board. Both Rupert and ODRC presented evidence regarding Rupert's employment and removal at a hearing before an administrative law judge. Subsequent to the hearing, the administrative law judge issued a report and recommendation setting forth her findings of fact and conclusions of law. In short, the administrative law judge found only two of the grounds cited by ODRC justified discipline against Rupert: (1) his failure to complete barbershop inventories, and (2) his failure to perform his duties as ORAS coordinator. The administrative law judge concluded that, while these failings did not warrant removal, they demonstrated that Rupert's duties overwhelmed him, rendering him an ineffective supervisor. Thus, the administrative law judge recommended that the Board modify Rupert's removal to a reduction in position and reinstate Rupert to the highest non-supervisory position under a unit manager.

         {¶ 4} In an order dated December 18, 2015, the Board adopted the administrative law judge's findings, modified Rupert's removal to a reduction in position, and reinstated Rupert to the highest non-supervisory position under a unit manager. The Board made the demotion and reinstatement effective December 2, 2015.

         {¶ 5} Three days after issuing its order, the Board stayed that order until its next scheduled Board meeting. Rupert took advantage of the stay by asking the Board to clarify its position on the issue of whether he should receive back pay. In an order dated January 6, 2016, the Board stated that "the intent of this Board is that back pay for [Rupert] is to run from December 2, 2015 until the effective date of [Rupert's] reinstatement with [ODRC]." (Emphasis sic; Jan. 6, 2016 Order.) The Board then stated, "[I]t is hereby ORDERED that [Rupert's] removal be modified to a reduction and that [Rupert] be reinstated to a classification assigned to the highest non-supervisory position under a Unit Manager, all to be effective December 2, 2015, pursuant to R.C. 124.03 and R.C. 124.34." (Emphasis sic.) Id.

         {¶ 6} Rupert appealed the Board's order to the trial court. The trial court affirmed the Board's order in a judgment entered February 27, 2017.

         {¶ 7} Rupert now appeals the February 27, 2017 judgment, and he assigns the following errors:

[1.] The Lower Court Erred By Finding that Mr. Rupert Failed to Perform ORAS Quality Reviews Because There Was No Due Date Set For When the Reviews Must Be Completed And, Given One Interpretation of an Applicable ORAS Policy, Rupert Was Terminated Six Months Before the Reviews Were Due[.]
[2.] The Lower Court Erred In Using the Barbershop Inventory Issue, the Only Charge Established by [O]DRC, As A Sufficient Basis For Demoting Rupert, a Fourteen[-]Year [O]DRC Employee, Since He Had More Critical Safety Issues to Deal with Than Barbershop Supplies.
[3.] The Lower Court Erred in Ruling that Mr. Rupert Was Not Entitled to Back Pay For the Unlawful Termination Period; Because, In Denying Such Back Pay, the Lower Court Fails to Make ...

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