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Huron County airport reworking contract with sex offender manager

Annie Zelm • Jun 25, 2011 at 1:00 PM

The Huron County airport board is renegotiating its contract with Doug Arnold because of his status as a sex offender -- a fact board members didn't realize when they hired him to be the airport manager.

Arnold, 35, had been serving as secretary and treasurer of the airport board, among other duties involved with the overall operation of the airport.

The board this week decided he'll no longer serve as treasurer but will continue to serve as the secretary until his contract is renegotiated.

In recent months, the airport board committed to a requirement that its treasurer be bonded to comply with Ohio law. Previous airport managers who fulfilled the duties of a treasurer had not been bonded.

But Arnold's status as a convicted felon makes him ineligible to be bonded, according to state law.

The board hired him May 1 on a six-month contract.

It later discovered he was convicted of use of a minor in nudity-oriented material in Licking County, a low-level sex offense.

After meeting several times in executive session and seeking legal advice from county legal representative Daivia Kasper, the board decided to rethink the contract.

Board member John Cross has been tasked with meeting with Arnold to reach a settlement, expected to be announced at the board's July 12 meeting.

That could involve Arnold continuing in a more limited capacity or leaving the airport altogether.

In the meantime, board president Dennis Sokol will be in charge of all financial transactions, including the transfer of fuel sales and hand-delivering checks to the county auditor's office.

"I was involved very directly in the recruiting process, so I thought it was best that I not be involved at all in renegotiating the contract," Sokol said. "(John Cross) has got his marching orders. Hopefully he'll get it done, and we can move forward."

Huron County commissioner Larry Silcox expressed frustration at a recent meeting, saying the board should have done its homework before hiring Arnold. Nine others expressed interest in the job, including former board member Debbie Lake-Wagner.

The board said it simply took guidance from the county's employment application, which does not specifically ask if applicants have been convicted of a felony.

Commissioners updated the applications to include that question and others, but Silcox said those changes had already been in the works before the airport debacle.

He said he'd wait until the board finished its negotiations with Arnold before commenting further.

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