Ex-county worker Aaron Nova reinstated

Settlement demotes former kennel employee to custodian

2/27/2013
BY TANYA IRWIN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Aaron Nova, acquitted of mistreating a dog at the pound, was demoted to a position paying $3.14 less hourly.
Aaron Nova, acquitted of mistreating a dog at the pound, was demoted to a position paying $3.14 less hourly.

A former kennel worker at the Lucas County Dog Warden’s office who was fired after a video showed what authorities believed to be his inappropriate handling of a dog has been reinstated as a Lucas County employee.

The grievance settlement, approved by the Lucas County commissioners on Tuesday, demotes Aaron Nova to a full-time custodial worker in the Lucas County Facilities Department. He will fill a vacant position that has not yet been posted and his rate of pay will be reduced to $13.11 per hour, compared to the $16.25 hourly wage he was making when he was dismissed from the pound.

He agreed to a permanent restriction that prevents him from bidding on or entering into any position at the Lucas County Dog Warden. He also agreed to participate in an Employee Assistance Program assessment, to be scheduled by the Human Resources Department.

Mr. Nova, a Lake Township resident who started as a pound employee on June 26, 2006, was placed on paid administrative leave Aug. 7 after he was caught on videotape picking up a dog in a chokehold, slamming it against a kennel door, and throwing it into a kennel.

The leave changed to unpaid after he was jailed on a probation violation for a previous domestic violence charge. He was terminated Oct. 5.

The agreement changes the termination to a suspension without pay from Oct. 5 to March 3 for the charges of neglect of duty, failure to follow established procedures, and failure of good behavior.

“I still believe that the behavior Mr. Nova showed was not acceptable for a kennel worker at the Lucas County Dog Warden,” Lucas County Dog Warden Julie Lyle said. “He will not be returning to employment here, which was my concern in this matter.”

Mr. Nova of 2635 Moline-Martin Rd. was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty and was acquitted Jan. 15 after Toledo Municipal Court Judge Timothy Kulhman read the statute Mr. Nova was charged under and then said he did not believe Mr. Nova’s behavior rose to the level of animal cruelty.

The judge said the main legal sticking point was that there was no evidence the dog had been injured.

Had the county commissioners not accepted the grievance settlement, the matter could have gone to arbitration, which would have been costly and time consuming and “there was always the risk that he would have been reinstated into his position at the dog warden,” said Carol Contrada, president of the county commissioners.

“It was a not a risk we wanted to take,” Mrs. Contrada said. “The board of commissioners has made every effort to protect the safety of the dogs in our care; that has been the paramount issue, is to protect those dogs.”

Steve Kowalik, staff representative for Local 544 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Ohio Council 8, which represents Mr. Nova, called it “an acceptable resolution to the grievance.”

“We’re satisfied with the conditions of the settlement agreement,” Mr. Kowalik said. “He’s paid his debt and we’re ready to move on.”

Mr. Kowalik declined comment on Mr. Nova’s behalf, indicating that Mr. Nova wanted the union to represent him in any statements to the media.

Contact Tanya Irwin at: tirwin@theblade.com or 419-724-6066.