Lawsuit against Putnam Educational Service Center reinstated

LIMA — An appellate court gave new life this week to an appeal by the Putnam County administrator filed against his former employer, the county’s Educational Service Center.

The 3rd District Court of Appeals overturned a May decision by visiting Judge John Collier of Henry County that dismissed the lawsuit Jackson Betscher filed last year against the governing board of the Putnam County Educational Service Center seeking $18,372 for vacation time he said he was entitled to be paid for under Ohio law.

The case will be sent back to the trial to continue proceedings.

The lawsuit deals with technical issues of Ohio law pertaining to contracts of governmental employees. Betscher said he was “a non-teaching employee” of the service center and under Ohio law entitled to vacation pay. The center said he was employed under the “other administrator” category and not entitled to vacation benefits.

Collier found Betscher was not a full-time employee therefore not entitled to vacation pay under Ohio law at the time. The judge ruled because Betscher worked for commissioners and the center, the center did not have legal authority to contract with commissioners therefore the only way to interpret Betscher’s contract was to conclude he was a part-time employee of the center and commissioners.

The appellate court found Betscher’s contracts unclear and ambiguous, saying the contracts could be interpreted several ways but ultimately ruled the judge erred in his decision that Betscher only was a part-time employee of each entity.

The 3rd District also said the trial court judge erred by ruling the center could not contract with the board of commissioners before Sept. 29, 2011, which was included in Betscher’s original contract.

The dispute arose after the superintendent of the center sent Betscher a letter saying becaue of “financial reasons” his contract was being suspended “in part” and his wage reduced. He was advised he would be laid off between January through April 2014, according to the lawsuit.

Betscher also was told he would no longer qualify for health insurance beginning Jan. 1, 2014, according to the lawsuit.

Betscher said he was entitled to 48.25 vacation days between April 5, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2013, for which he was not paid. He asked the center to pay him but was either denied or his request ignored, according to the lawsuit.

By Greg Sowinski

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Reach Greg Sowinski at 567-242-0464 or on Twitter @Lima_Sowinski.