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Published: Friday, 12/15/2006

Fired Owens athletic director declares his innocence

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Jim Welling, former Owens athletic director and basketball coach, meets with the media at the Toledo Club. Jim Welling, former Owens athletic director and basketball coach, meets with the media at the Toledo Club.
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A day after learning no criminal charges would be filed against him, former Owens Community College Athletic Director Jim Welling said he was "relieved the truth was finally out."

Mr. Welling, who was fired by the college on Nov. 13, held a news conference yesterday at the Toledo Club to discuss the Perrysburg Township Police Department's decision not to file a charge of theft against him.

Owens accused Mr. Welling of accepting an $800 payment from the Toledo Ice basketball team for allowing it to hold tryouts on campus and not forwarding the money to the college.

On Wednesday, township police announced there was no evidence Mr. Welling ever received such a payment.

"The reason I'm here today is to let everyone know that not only did Perrysburg Township and their investigation prove to me to be innocent, but I did not receive a penny from the Toledo Ice," Mr. Welling said yesterday.

"And if I was still in my current position, I would've sent them the bill. Unfortunately, that can't happen."

Mr. Welling addressed those attending the news conference for about five minutes, reading partially from a statement that was distributed to reporters.

He refused to answer questions regarding the circumstances of his dismissal.

A 1980 graduate of Owens, Mr. Welling became emotional during part of his remarks, which he noted fell on the school's graduation day.

"It's been a very, very strenuous four weeks for my family and friends," he said. "It's coming up on the holiday season, and our family has endured quite a bit."

Mr. Welling said his attorney, Jerome Phillips, advised him not to discuss his firing with the media.

Contacted by phone, Mr. Phillips said what his client would not discuss is that Mr. Welling is planning to file a civil lawsuit against Owens regarding his dismissal.

"I had him get in touch with some people in the area who deal with employee litigation, and they'll review the facts and determine what to do," Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Phillips said his client would seek punitive damages from the college, but likely would not attempt to get his old job back.

Brad Meyer, an Owens spokesman, reiterated his statement of Wednesday, saying Mr. Welling was fired for just cause.

On Nov. 10, Mr. Welling received a scathing job review in which questions were raised about the money for the Ice tryouts as well as other alleged financial indiscretions and failures to fulfill responsibilities.

Most recently, Mr. Welling served as athletic director at an annual salary of $63,052 and held supplemental teaching and golf contracts that paid more than $13 an hour.

He also coached men's basketball at the school from 1984 through last season, leading the Express to a 550-127 record and National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championships in 1992 and 1993.

Mr. Welling said he hoped to find employment in northwest Ohio because his "heart ... family and friends are in northwest Ohio."

"Where I'm heading at this point, I'm not 100 percent sure," he said. "But I feel very positive and very faithful that something good will come out of all of this."

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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