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(UPDATED): Federal judge dismisses Voltz case

Andy Ouriel • Jun 18, 2015 at 3:12 PM


Almost three years after being jailed and fired, but never convicted, for allegedly raping a woman, a federal judge dismissed the wrongful termination case filed by Erie County’s former champion against child abuse and domestic violence.

Now Aaron Voltz, the past executive director at Erie County Job and Family Services, has nearly exhausted any ability to regain what he sought: another high-ranking job at his previous workplace along with $75,000 in compensation.

Voltz, a Hispanic man, claimed racial and gender discrimination in his lawsuit — his response to county commissioners terminating him in July 2011 based upon accusations he raped a then-26-year-old Huron woman.

For instance, in his lawsuit, Voltz complained about how he couldn’t succeed at his job because “there was too much estrogen” in the department.

But Toledo-based U.S. District Judge Jack Zouhary slammed Voltz’s contentions because officials showed no biases when hiring and constantly promoting him during his 15-year county career.

“After (Voltz’s) arrest, the same board, on the advice of the same individuals who recommended hiring him, elected to terminate him,” according to Zouhary’s recent ruling. “These acts, by the same individuals, demonstrate that discriminatory (belief) did not motivate the termination. It was the plaintiff’s own misconduct outside of work that placed him and his employer in an unfavorable light in the public eye and resulted in his termination.”

Zouhary continued: “Finally, the unique facts of a department head being arrested and incarcerated for rape in a county office assigned to care for children and families can be sufficient to warrant termination. The severity of the charges are undisputed.”

Voltz’s window to appeal shuts sometime within the next two weeks. If Voltz decides against filing an appeal before then, then the drawn-out, controversial case finally ends.

“We are just waiting to see if Mr. Voltz is going to appeal the case,” said Erie County commissioner Pat Shenigo, who opted against providing any additional comments.

Voltz’s termination came just days after county commissioners — the same board firing him — selected Voltz as job and family services' top employee, overseeing departments such as foster care and child support.

Voltz, upon his appointment, agreed to a 180-day, no-tolerance period.

Even so much as being accused of rape permitted commissioners to fire Voltz.

The Register only learned about this decision after filing a public records request seeking an update on Voltz.

Court findings

Among some other noteworthy tidbits coming from Zouhary’s 14-page ruling:

• Around 2008: The same woman accusing Voltz of raping her in July 2011 claimed to have a volatile relationship with him dating as far back as 2008. The lawsuit also indicates she filed a rape charge against Voltz in 2008.

Voltz “testified that he continued a sexual relationship with (the victim), even after she accused him of rape (in 2008) because he feared she would become angry with him if he refused her and would falsely accuse him of rape or otherwise slander him, jeopardizing his career,” according to the ruling.

• July 8, 2011, or three days before commissioners fired Voltz: With a second woman, Voltz consumed several alcoholic drinks on Kelleys Island and then become confrontational with her. This occurred just hours before he met up with the woman accusing him of rape.

“Later in the evening, the couple began fighting and, according to (Voltz, the second woman not accusing him of rape) physically assaulted him, such that Kelleys Island police became involved,” the lawsuit indicated. “After that incident, (Voltz) left Kelleys Island on a boat to return to Sandusky without (the second woman).”

• Later on July 8, 2011: Voltz, upon returning from Kelleys Island, met up with the second woman he became argumentative toward on Kelleys Island. The two once again started yelling at one another. Voltz then left this woman and drove to the apartment of the woman who accused him of raping her.

• Erie County’s former human resources director cited numerous “incidents” in which Voltz was publicly intoxicated.

Aaron Voltz timeline

• 1996: Voltz starts tenure at Erie County Job and Family Services.

• June 2011: Erie County commissioners select Voltz as the department’s new executive director, the highest-ranking position there.

• July 9, 2011: Huron police receive a call from a 26-year-old woman who accuses Voltz of forcibly raping her at her Cleveland Road apartment. Three officers show up at the apartment with a rape kit and confiscate a stainless steel knife, bed sheet, comforter and some clothes. Police issue a warrant for Voltz’s arrest.

• July 10, 2011: Perkins police arrest Voltz. He is later taken to the Erie County jail.

• July 11, 2011: Erie County commissioners unanimously agree to fire Voltz for conduct detrimental to his department, stemming from the rape charge. Upon being promoted, Voltz had agreed to a 180-day probation period, allowing commissioners to fire him if he was suspected of or committed any detrimental action. Voltz posted bond later this week.

• November 2011: Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone dismisses rape charges against Voltz, citing the alleged victim’s refusal to testify.

• November 2012: Erie County commissioners receive a copy of certified letter the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, sent by Voltz and a Cleveland law firm. The county’s insurance policy helps cover compensator damages as well as back pay if a court ruling ultimately sides with Voltz on the wrongful termination claim.

• December 2012: Voltz sends Erie County commissioners a letter demanding he be reinstated as the Erie County Job and Family Services’ assistant director, the position he had before he was promoted to the executive director’s position in June 2011.

• January 2013: Voltz files a lawsuit against Erie County, seeking at least $75,000 in compensation because he was fired.

• June 2014: Federal judge dismisses Voltz's lawsuit.

• Mid-July 2014: Approximate deadline in which Voltz can appeal federal judge’s case. If he doesn’t do so, then the case is closed.

Source: Register research

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