MOUNT VERNON — The six women who sued members of the Knox County 9-1-1 and EMA boards, several county elected officials and EMA Director Brian Hess have finally gotten their wish.
This morning, Hess was officially terminated after the EMA board unanimously voted to approve his discharge Thursday afternoon during an emergency meeting.
According to Assistant Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville, Hess was terminated because the board believes he was not upfront about the reason he left Mohican Juvenile Correctional Facility in 2005.
Hess was fired because of “employee dishonesty and loss of confidence by the board in his ability to lead the agency,” according to McConville.
Information received by McConville earlier this week as part of discovery in the civil lawsuit illustrates a sexual harassment incident involving Hess and a youth from MJCF on Nov. 5, 2005.
According to the document acquired by the News through a public records request, Hess walked up behind a youth and “grabbed” the youth’s head “and (Juvenile Corrections Officer) Hess then began thrusting his crotch in [the youth’s] face.”
Investigation of the incident through footage on security cameras corroborates the youth’s allegations of the thrusting and that Hess “acts like he is unzipping his pants and moves his crotch toward the back of the youth’s head.”
According to the documents, when asked about these incidents, Hess declined union representation “because of its embarrassing subject matter.” Hess told the investigator the youth had told him his pants were unzipped so he checked and then initiated “horseplay” with the youth.
The conclusion of the report was that the allegation against Hess was founded. According to William Curphey, the plaintiff’s attorney, Hess resigned before action could be taken.
The civil lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court on July 27, 2011, alleges Hess sexually harassed 9-1-1 dispatchers and created a hostile work environment since early 2009.
Curphey told the News shortly after the suit was filed that the women “aren’t looking for money, they want him (Hess) fired.”
Part of the lawsuit specifies the defendants, Sheriff David Barber, commissioners and board members of EMA and 9-1-1, were negligent in hiring Hess because they “should have known that Hess had previously been discharged or otherwise resigned from the Mohican Youth Center for inappropriate sexual misconduct with a minor.”
When rumors started to circulate about the alleged incident, McConville made a public records request for Hess’ personnel file, which made no mention of the accusations. However a document was included that stated Hess was placed on paid administrative leave on Nov. 18, 2005, but no additional information was included. McConville said he did not question the administrative leave because no additional information was in his file.
“We thought we had the full record,” McConville said. “It stood to reason that if there was more to it, it would have been in the file.”
Curphey said today the acquisition of the investigative file was no easy task and required the assistance of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
When considering Hess’ ability to be honest and trustworthy, evaluation of his applications for employment with the county resulted in the discovery of discrepancies regarding his work history.
“If you look at the applications, you are required to give an entire work history with dates of employment,” McConville said.
On his application for the EMA deputy director position, dated Jan. 28, 2008, Hess only mentioned that he worked for the Ohio Department of Youth Services in response to a question inquiring whether or not the applicant has ever applied, or been employed, by the state, a county or a political subdivision. There was no listing of ODYS or Mohican in his employment history and work experience. However, Hess documented that he was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency from April 2003 to September 2007.
On his application for the EMA director position dated March 26, 2009, Hess listed his employment with the CIA starting from April 2003 to “no definitive date.” He also listed that he was employed by Mohican as a corrections officer from September 2005 to September 2006. Hess documented that he left the employment of Mohican because of his family and that “my business was taking off well enough to support them.”
According to records in his personnel file from Mohican, Hess was employed starting Sept. 13, 2004. He submitted his letter of resignation on Dec. 22, 2005, because of a job opportunity with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Curphey told the News today the lawsuit will continue because the damage has been done.
“That was the problem, that was all they were seeking and that wasn’t done. They had to resort to a court action,” Curphey said.
Even though Hess is no longer a county employee, he will still be represented by the county in the lawsuit.
McConville declined to comment on whether or not the termination of Hess’ employment with the county has any bearing on the progression of the lawsuit because it remains pending litigation.
The county has acquired mutual aid agreements with EMAs from surrounding counties while it searches for a new director.
A message left for Hess seeking comment was not returned.