FROM JUDGMENT ENTERED IN THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS COUNTY OF
LORAIN, OHIO CASE No. 16CV190175
L. ENGLISH, Attorney at Law, for Appellant.
NEVADA, Attorney at law, for Appellee.
DECISION AND JOURNAL ENTRY
Plaintiff-Appellant Barbara Barr appeals from the judgment of
the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas. This Court reverses
and remands the matter for further proceedings consistent
with this opinion.
In 2014, Ms. Barr was employed by Defendant-Appellee the
Lorain County Department of Job and Family Services
("the Agency") as a clerical supervisor. At that
time, she had worked for the Agency for over 20 years. As a
clerical supervisor, Ms. Barr supervised four intake workers
at the front desk. In addition, individuals referred to as
W.E.P. workers worked for the Agency. These individuals were
actually clients of the Agency who were required to work a
certain number of hours for the Agency in order to receive
public benefits. Ms. Barr also had W.E.P. workers under her
supervision. One of those W.E.P. workers was P.R.
On April 1, 2014, Ms. Barr was removed from her position.
Following pre-disciplinary conferences, at which time PR.
provided a statement that was recorded, Ms. Barr was demoted
to the position of data entry operator 2. This was a demotion
in position and pay rate.
At the time of her demotion, Ms. Barr's son was addicted
to heroin. Understandably, Ms. Barr was very concerned for
her son's welfare. Inter alia, the Agency alleged that
Ms. Barr involved PR. in these concerns and inappropriately
used her work computer to look up an individual on a court
website. With respect to the former allegation, on March 19,
2014, Ms. Barr asked P.R. if she recognized any phone numbers
on a list, which contained numbers that Ms. Barr believed to
be drug dealers and which Ms. Barr was considering turning
over to the police. When P.R. indicated that she did
recognize a number, Ms. Barr allegedly told P.R. to tell the
person to not sell Ms. Barr's son drugs anymore. Later
that day, someone called Ms. Barr's son and threatened
their lives if Ms. Barr went to the police with the phone
numbers. Ms. Barr then got in touch with P.R. and told P.R.
to tell the person that Ms. Barr was not going to give the
numbers to the police. The next day Ms. Barr requested that
P.R. be reassigned allegedly both because someone had been
making mistakes in the area where P.R. worked and because of
the events the previous day.
Ms. Barr appealed the demotion to the State Personnel Board
of Review ("SPBR"). A hearing was held before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ"), at which P.R. did
not testify, but her prior statement was played. The ALJ
issued a report and recommendation, in which the ALJ made
several findings and recommended that Ms. Barr's demotion
Ms. Barr filed objections to the ALJ's report and
recommendation. SPBR heard oral argument and thereafter
issued an order. SPBR adopted the findings of the ALJ but
modified the ALJ's recommendation. SPBR concluded that:
The record reflects that Appellant misused her position for
personal reasons. However, Appellant's actions must be
counterbalanced with her many years of satisfactory service
with Appellee in her position. Further, Appellant's
rather unique and difficult personal circumstances that
unquestionably impacted on her behavior in this matter seem
unlikely to be repeated. Finally, if Appellant is
prospectively restored to her former position or a
comparably-ranked position/pay, she still will have paid a
hefty monetary penalty for her actions. This should certainly
sensitize her to the need to carefully and faithfully follow
all of Appellee's practices and procedures going forward.
Wherefore, it is hereby ORDERED that
Appellant's instant REDUCTION be
MODIFIED to a FINE
equivalent to the sum owed to Appellant representing the
difference between her current pay and her back pay arising
from restoration to her former classification of Clerical
Supervisor, commencing from the effective date of the