PAULDING, Ohio — Dog Warden Georgia Dyson once again is out of a job.
After several months of back and forth over whether Ms. Dyson could remain in the position, Paulding County commissioners fired her Monday, citing unclean conditions of the dog kennels at the shelter.
The three commissioners, accompanied by Sheriff Jason Landers and Deputy Sheriff Mark Butler, inspected the kennels Monday morning and found excessive dog and mouse fecal matter, commission Chairman Fred Pieper said.
“It was disgusting, to say the least,” Mr. Pieper said. “She’s lucky we aren’t taking her to court. If she had found conditions like this at someone’s house, she would have been filing charges against them. That’s animal cruelty.”
The conditions at the shelter were photographed and shown to Ms. Dyson, who says she had last been at the shelter Saturday.
She said she was told by the new Deputy Dog Warden Brandon Shuherk that he was taking care of the dogs on Sunday.
Mr. Shuherk is the interim dog warden this week, with Deputy Sheriff Mark Rassman taking over as dog warden starting next week, Mr. Pieper said.
The commissioners voted in May to transition the dog warden duties to the sheriff’s office and said Ms. Dyson’s last day on the job would be June 30. She has been the dog warden since December, 2010.
Then the commissioners signed a resolution June 5 to appoint Ms. Dyson as dog warden under the supervision of Sheriff Landers, effective July 1. It was initially thought she was ineligible for the job under the new structure because her spouse is employed at the sheriff’s office.
Ms. Dyson was on light duty from June 19-24 because of medical problems, Mr. Pieper said.
“But she had been back a week, so there’s no excuse for the conditions we found there,” he said.
Ms. Dyson said she had told the commissioners of the mouse problem last week and had been told to “get a cat, or put down poison and traps.”
“They basically don’t want to spend the money to improve the conditions there,” she said.
Ms. Dyson said she had told the commissioners June 26 that she planned to file an unfair labor practices complaint against them with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Mr. Pieper said the pending complaint did not affect the commissioners’ decision to fire Ms. Dyson.
At the commissioners’ June 26 meeting, Cindy Peters, clerk to the commissioners, presented paperwork from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation denying Ms. Dyson's claim.
Ms. Peters said at the meeting Ms. Dyson has the right to appeal the BWC’s decision in a timely manner. The commissioners then presented Ms. Dyson with a letter regarding her ability to serve as Paulding County Dog Warden/Special Deputy.
The letter stated that Ms. Dyson would be placed on administrative leave without pay beginning at 8 a.m. July 1, pending a written status decision from an appropriate medical professional.
The leave is no longer necessary since Ms. Dyson has been fired, Mr. Pieper said.
Ms. Dyson said she and the assistant dog warden killed 35 mice with a broom last week and were continuing to battle the problem. She was hesitant to use rat poison, as suggested by Mr. Pieper, for fear that one of the dogs in her care might eat it.
Paulding is the first county in northwest Ohio to shift dog warden duties to the sheriff’s office. It joins nine other Ohio counties which have done so: Champaign, Shelby, Madison, Marion, Pike, Washington, Logan, Preble, and Fayette.
Unlike those counties, which have a humane society or other animal-sheltering group that takes dogs after the sheriff’s office picks them up, the Paulding County Sheriff’s office will take over the county pound, which houses up to 12 dogs.
Bob Duffey, a Paulding County resident who would like to see the commissioners recalled, said he thinks Ms. Dyson was set up.
“I called this the minute they offered her the job,” said Mr. Duffey of Cecil. “I said they would do this [allow her to continue to serve as dog warden via the sheriff’s office] to appease the citizens, but they would find some way to get rid of her once things cooled down.”
The Paulding County Board of Elections has said the county commissioners cannot be recalled because there is no provision in the county’s charter for a recall, Mr. Duffey said. But a group of citizens who have been discussing a possible recall on Facebook are exploring other options.
“Another method of removing them from office is very similar to the recall process. However, it requires the signatures on the petition be submitted to the common pleas court in the form of a complaint,” he said. “This must be done along with the filing of a complaint with the Ohio Ethics Commission.”