ST. PARIS – Village council voted to terminate village street commissioner Tyler Adkins’ employment following a hearing held during Monday’s regular council meeting.
During an evidentiary hearing that lasted over an hour, Adkins and Village Administrator Joe Sampson answered questions regarding the duties and responsibilities of Adkins’ job and multiple charges of misconduct brought against him.
A notice of pre-disciplinary conference dated May 22 informed Adkins of a conference that would be held on May 26 to provide him with an opportunity to respond to allegations of misconduct.
The notice stated Adkins’ misconduct included incompetence, gross neglect of duty, insubordination, failure of good behavior, nonfeasance and violation of the village’s personnel policy manual and work rules.
In a report on the pre-disciplinary conference, senior consultant Andrew A. Esposito recommended that Adkins be terminated from his employment with the village.
A notice of charges against Adkins was served to him on June 2 stating that the charges would be heard at the June 15 council meeting. He was also placed on paid administrative leave on the same date.
Charges discussed during hearing
The seven charges filed against Adkins included working unauthorized overtime, failure to respond to text messages in a timely manner, failure to lock the dump gate, raising his voice to an inappropriate level and directing comments toward Village Administrator Joe Sampson during a meeting regarding job descriptions in front of another employee, changing the scope of work projects without authorization, hiring a contractor without authorization, and purchasing material without prior authorization.
Prior to the start of the hearing, Adkins was given the opportunity to have the hearing conducted in executive session and opted have the hearing open to the public. Adkins was represented by Attorney Tammi J. Angle during the hearing.
Throughout the hearing, Adkins and Sampson answered questions from Esposito, Angle and council members about the respective incidents related to the charges.
Regarding the charge of hiring a contractor without authorization, Angle said the incidents related to this charge stem from after a storm sewer collapsed and needed to be repaired. Adkins said he when he was unable to or did not have the equipment to complete a job he would find a contractor to complete the job.
In this instance, Adkins said, he hired a contractor and added he was not told he could not hire a contractor to till the ground. When asked by Esposito if he received prior authorization before hiring the contractor, Adkins said he did not.
Esposito then asked Sampson to recite a document that stated that projects requiring extra help outside the respective department required the village administrator to assign extra help and outside contractors needed to first be approved by the administrator unless the situation was an emergency. Sampson stated Adkins did not contact him stating he needed extra help or when hiring a contractor.
The changing the scope of work on projects charge was related to a project to repair a concrete wall on Poplar Street.
Describing the project, Sampson said when a sidewalk was removed a wall also needed to be removed and this was discussed with the property owner. As the project progressed, it was determined that the wall would be put back the way it originally was.
When the wall was being formed in a different manner by concrete contractors, Sampson said he asked why this was changed. He said the concrete workers told him that Adkins told them to form the wall in the opposite way.
Adkins said he did not have any discussion with Sampson about how the wall would be formed or how the property owner wanted the wall to be formed.
Regarding the charge of failure to respond to text messages in a timely manner, Adkins said some of the messages he received were statements that did not require a response or someone would already answer the question asked in the message. Adkins added there might be times where he could not hear his phone while working.
Sampson said Adkins had been previously disciplined for not answering text messages and a rule about responding to text messages had been in effect for a couple years.
A memorandum from Sampson to the water and sewer, street and parks department filed on April 16 referencing answering text and phone messages stated 30 minutes is ample time to answer a text message unless “there are extenuating circumstances that can be documented.”
“Even if there is a text sent that is not a question, you are required to acknowledge that you have received the message with a response within the 30 minutes,” the memorandum stated. “Failure to do so will result in disciplinary action.”
After Sampson recited the memorandum, Angle asked him why a text acknowledging a person received the message was necessary.
“So I know they’ve gotten it,” Sampson replied.
“Doesn’t your phone say ‘delivered at such and such time,’” Angle asked.
“Not always,” Sampson stated.
Both Adkins and Sampson said the cellphones they were communicating on are provided by the village.
The last charge addressed during the hearing was Adkins raising his voice to an inappropriate level and directing comments toward Sampson during a meeting regarding job descriptions in front of another employee.
Referencing a meeting in which Sampson needed information about job descriptions for a handbook, Adkins said he replied that his job description was already written into the Ohio Revised Code as a street commissioner. Adkins said he was told by Sampson that he was no longer the street commissioner.
“I said ‘well my job duties haven’t changed but my title has changed’ so then he proceeded to ask me what my title was and I said it was street commissioner,” Adkins said. He added he was continued to be referred to as the street commissioner.
Speaking further on his job description, Adkins said what he does and what he has been asked to do were two different things.
“I’ve been asked to do a lot more than what I was hired to do and (Sampson) wants to add those extra things onto my job description,” Adkins said. “Which is fine, but like I said, I felt like I was being made to work more for less money.”
During the discussion about the yelling charge, Esposito questioned Adkins about two incidents in which he was reprimanded for yelling at citizens.
A written employee reprimand form from November 2010 details a Nov. 5, 2010, incident in which police responded to a resident complaint stating that Adkins verbally assaulted her for trying to back into her driveway as construction was underway in the area. The form stated that after trying to explain to the resident why she needed to move her vehicle, the resident continued yelling and cussing at Adkins leading to him telling her to “move her (expletive)ing car.”
Adkins was also reprimanded for a Nov. 28, 2011, incident when he got into an argument with then council member Brenda Cook at Howard’s IGA regarding a council appointment.
As the hearing started to conclude, Angle said the elephant in the room was a disconnect in the working relationship between Adkins and Sampson.
“(Adkins) hasn’t misspent village funds. He’s done his job properly,” Angle said to council. “He and his supervisor it sounds like in more recent months have worked on communicating better than they have in the past. We ask you to consider not following the hearing officer’s recommendation of terminating the employee.”
Esposito said Adkins’ quality of work is not in question, but his attitude was “poor” at best.
“Doing a good job does not overwhelm the fact that someone is patternly insubordinate,” Esposito said to council. “As soon as Mr. Sampson became village administrator is when a lot of the problems happened. That shouldn’t be the fault of you guys, unfortunately it’s the fault of Mr. Adkins for not being able to tow the line.
“If he’s given a direct order he needs to do it. If he’s told to lock the dump after there was a theft he needs to do it. If he needs to respond to a text message because they’re not on speaking terms he needs to do it.”
After returning from an executive session to discuss personnel discipline, council unanimously voted to uphold the recommendation to dismiss Adkins. The dismissal was made effective on Tuesday morning.
Sampson said Thursday that the village will not fill the street commissioner vacancy immediately and there is no timetable for when the village will decide future options. Employees in other departments will address the duties and responsibilities left by the vacancy.
Adkins said he worked as the street commissioner since 2003. A Daily Citizen article from March states his annual salary was $39,393.64.