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Former coach at Owens won't be prosecuted

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No criminal charges will be filed against the former Owens Community College athletic director who was fired last month and accused of withholding funds from the school, a Perrysburg Township police officer said yesterday.

Detective Sgt. Robert Gates said there was not enough evidence to show probable cause for a theft charge against former Owens basketball coach and athletic director Jim Welling, who was dismissed by the college Nov. 13.

Sergeant Gates said the college accused Mr. Welling of accepting an $800 payment for hosting tryouts for the Toledo Ice basketball team at the school and failing to submit the money.

According to a news release issued by township police, an investigation of the charge was conducted that included subpoenas of school records and Mr. Welling's personal information. Findings of the investigation were presented to the Wood County

Prosecutor's Office this week.

"That money was never paid to Mr. Welling, or at least there is certainly no proof of it," Sergeant Gates said.

County Prosecutor Ray Fischer said it was the township police's call whether there was probable cause to suspect a crime had been committed, and "in this case, they [didn't] find any probable cause."

According to Sergeant Gates, Owens contacted then-Ice President Chris Dotson regarding a payment owed for allowing the team to use the Student Health and Activities Center on Oct. 28 and 29.

Mr. Dotson reportedly told school officials during a telephone conversation that he paid Mr. Welling $800 for the two-day use of the facility.

Mr. Dotson, a Toledo native now based in Minnesota, recently was relieved of his role with the Ice by the American Basketball Association for failing to fulfill such duties as paying players and coaches for their work.

Sergeant Gates said he tried to make contact with Mr. Dotson by phone and e-mails but never received a response.

As for Mr. Welling, his next step could be a civil lawsuit against his former employer, according to his attorney, Jerome Phillips.

Mr. Phillips said his client could pursue punitive damages caused by what the attorney called Owens' breach of contract with and defamation of Mr. Welling.

Mr. Welling received $63,052 a year as director of student enrichment and athletics. He also held teaching and golf contracts that paid more than $13 an hour.

"He's very upset about all of this, to say the least," Mr. Phillips said. "For one, there's the wrongful termination. But there's also been horrific damage done to my client's reputation, and he hasn't done anything wrong."

Owens spokesman Bradley Meyer responded to all questions asked by The Blade by saying Mr. Welling was fired for "just cause, and that is still the case."

A Nov. 10 appraisal of Mr. Welling's job performance conducted by Bill Ivoska, Owens vice president of student services, said that Mr. Welling had engaged in a "series of inappropriate behaviors and omissions" that became "increasingly more severe."

The performance appraisal listed 10 other examples of poor judgment by Mr. Welling, ranging from failing to monitor the eligibility of student-athletes to financial indiscretions.

In the appraisal, Mr. Ivoska accused Mr. Welling of "double-dipping" on his time sheets for his contracts as a golf coach and teacher.

Mr. Welling served as Owens' men's basketball coach from 1984 through last season, leading the team to a 550-127 record and National Junior College Athletic Division II championships in 1992 and 1993.

The Owens athletic department is being run on an interim basis by Michael Rickard, who had served under Mr. Welling as the school's coordinator of student enrichment and athletics.

Staff writers Jennifer Feehan and Joshua Boak contributed to this report.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.

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