Erie County commissioners are preparing for a possible court date pitting them against the government’s past advocate against child abuse and domestic violence.
Aaron Voltz, the former executive director at Erie County Job and Family Services, filed a lawsuit against commissioners in January, alleging they disparaged him while favoring female co-workers.
Voltz, a Hispanic, seeks at least $75,000 in damages and an administrative position with the department.
All three commissioners unanimously agreed to fire Voltz in July 2011, just days after police jailed him on a rape charge.
His termination also occurred less than a month after commissioners voted 3-0 to promote him into the department’s top spot.
Four months later, however, an Erie County judge dropped the rape charge based on the alleged victim’s reluctance to cooperate with prosecutors.
Commissioners contend they justly terminated Voltz, since he agreed to a 180-day probationary period upon getting promoted.
“This is ongoing litigation, and we cannot comment,” Erie County commissioner Bill Monaghan said.
Voltz, however, sued commissioners and their staff members in an attempt to regain employment in Erie County.
* Alleges Voltz “was often treated differently than similarly situated female and white co-workers.”
* Contends he couldn’t succeed at his job because “there was too much estrogen” in the department.
* Accuses county officials of disciplining Voltz more harshly than others who committed the same or lesser offenses.
“I believed that I was discriminated against by Erie County, its board of commissioners as well as its agents … because of my gender and national origin,” Votlz wrote in a previous letter to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission the Register later obtained.
But Marc Fishel — a county-appointed attorney who often represents Sandusky administrators in disputes against city police officers and commanders — did provide some clarity about Voltz’s ongoing case:
Q: What are the most recent dealings involving Aaron Voltz?
MF: We are in the discovery process. The parties have exchanged answers to interrogatories and responsed to document requests. There will be a few depositions that take place in July with others scheduled for September. There is a status conference scheduled with the court on Aug. 6.
Q: When will the court proceedings occur?
MF: If this case goes to trial, it’ll likely be in April 2014.
Q: What is the county doing now to combat the lawsuit?
MF: Obviously, the county believes it acted properly when (Voltz) was terminated in July 2011. The county stands by its decisions in this case.
Q: How much is the county paying for your legal services?
MF: The deductible is $2,500.
Note: The Erie County commissioners’ insurance policy will cover most costs related to the Voltz case.
Aaron Voltz timeline
• 1996: Voltz starts tenure at Erie County Job and Family Services.
• June 2011: Commissioners select Voltz as the new executive director at Erie County Job and Family Services. It’s the department’s top position, with the person reporting directly to commissioners.
• 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 then 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: The three 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.
• November 2011: Erie County Common Pleas Court Judge Tygh Tone dismisses rape charges against Voltz, citing the alleged victim’s reluctance to testify.
• November 2012: Erie County commissioners receive a copy of an Oct. 31 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 compensatory 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 Erie County Job and Family Services’ assistant director, the position he had before he was promoted to the director’s spot in June 2011.
• January 2013: Voltz files a lawsuit against Erie County, seeking at least $75,000 in compensation because he was fired.