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CCNO conducts audit of actions under ex-director

STRYKER, Ohio — An attorney is conducting an audit amid questions about ousted Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio director Jim Dennis, including concerns he acted on bids for contracts without the CCNO board’s agreement, officials said.

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Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio

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The CCNO board in late June voted unanimously to fire Mr. Dennis, who had been executive director at the jail since 1993. Jail officials since the termination have released little information about the move, and have declined to release records from an internal investigation.

But board members on Wednesday provided some insight into the dismissal. Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken cited Mr. Dennis’ inability to adapt to changes in state funding and criminal justice reform, and concerns about his communications with the board.

“The board had lost confidence in his ability to run the institution correctly,” he said.

Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp, who sits on the CCNO board with Mr. Gerken, said board members determined he acted without the board's approval, including on bids for contracts. Sheriff Tharp added that an attorney is conducting an audit to review Mr. Dennis’ decisions.

“He was doing some things, making some decisions without the board's input and the board's knowledge,” Sheriff Tharp said.

Mr. Dennis did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Other board members interviewed by The Blade declined to release information about the ongoing investigation, for which CCNO had paid about $3,400 as of early June, invoices show.

"I'm not at liberty to comment," Defiance County Sheriff Doug Engel said.

Officials denied a Blade public records request seeking materials from the investigation. CCNO attorney Marc Fishel said the investigation fell under attorney-client privilege, rendering documents used over the course of the investigation ineligible for public release.

Mr. Dennis’ personnel file, obtained through a public records request in late June, bore no mention of his dismissal. The most recent file was certification of a pay raise dated late January.

Records show Mr. Dennis generally received positive feedback on performance reviews.

In his most recent review records, dated September, 2015, a reviewer wrote Mr. Dennis “could be a politician,” under a rating for interpersonal relationships and communications. 

On Wednesday, board members appointed Dennis Sullivan as Mr. Dennis’ replacement.

Mr. Sullivan, previously CCNO’s director of security and operations, had been interim director since late April when Mr. Dennis was placed on paid administrative leave.

Mr. Sullivan made about $90,600 annually in his past job. His pay went up to about $105,000 when appointed to the higher post, officials said.

Mr. Dennis made about $110,000 per year as CCNO’s executive director, according to jail records.

Mr. Sullivan said he could not comment on Mr. Dennis’ firing, adding that it was a “board issue.”

Staff writer Ryan Dunn contributed to this report.

Contact Hailey Fuchs at hfuchs@theblade.com, 419-724-6050, or on Twitter @Hailey_Fuchs.

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