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Published: Saturday, 11/18/2006

Worker's van use may lead to firing


WAUSEON - A Fulton County employee who said she "wasn't thinking" when she drove the county's new minivan to North Carolina to exchange some personal furniture was asked to think this weekend about whether she wants to take a six-week, unpaid suspension or face a termination recommendation.

Cheri Schantz, an administrative assistant in Fulton County's Emergency Medical Services and Emergency Management Agency offices, admitted to a county hearing officer that she drove to Morrisville, N.C., to deliver a table to a friend's son and pick up a different table in late October.

In doing so, she put more than 600 unauthorized miles on the county's 2006 minivan, according to Andrew Votava, the county's director of organizational development, who served as the hearing officer and issued his report Thursday.

Ms. Schantz, who has been employed by the county since 1997, had been given use of the van to attend an ambulance billing conference in Hershey, Pa., from Oct. 23 to 25. And her immediate supervisor, Robert Hartman, emergency medical services director, allowed Ms Schantz to have a friend, Jim Hall, ride along.

But instead of returning directly to Wauseon after the conference, they went on to Morrisville, where they delivered a table to Mr. Hall's son and picked up another table that they brought back to Fulton County.

Ms. Schantz told Mr. Votava that she "wasn't thinking," according to his report, but he termed her "reckless" for not asking for permission to put extra miles on the county vehicle.

"I conclude that Ms. Schantz didn't think such a request would be approved and she knew it was inappropriate to use the van for this purpose. She also assumed that she wouldn't get caught," Mr. Votava wrote. "The act of knowing her action was inappropriate coupled with the fact that she did it anyway, in my opinion, demonstrates the wantonness or excessiveness of the situation."

Likewise, he wrote that Ms. Schantz did not request to drive her own vehicle to the conference.

"I conclude that Ms. Schantz merely did not wish to use her own vehicle, her friend's vehicle, or rent a vehicle large enough to haul the table," Mr. Votava wrote.

County administrator Vond Hall said that he told Ms. Schantz on Thursday that he was prepared to recommend her termination to the county commissioners and he believed that they would uphold such a recommendation.

But he said he also offered her the option of a six-week suspension without pay - she is paid $25,376 a year - beginning Monday along with a "last chance" agreement that would leave Ms. Schantz with no rights to appeal any future matters to the State Personnel Board of Review.

He asked for her decision Monday morning. Ms. Schantz did not return a call from The Blade yesterday.

Contact Jane Schmucker at: jschmucker@theblade.com or 419-337-7780.

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