July 1, 2016

Partly sunny

Medina County Clerk of Courts fires 2 workers

MEDINA — Employees in the Medina County Clerk of Courts Office were told in a campaign letter they could lose their jobs if David Wadsworth wasn’t elected clerk in November.

Wadsworth won, but this week two longtime employees, including the deputy clerk, were fired.

On Monday, Penny Lovejoy, who managed court archives for about 20 years, was fired. On Friday, Deputy Clerk Julie Kauffman, with 10 years of service, was terminated.

Wadsworth said he plans to appoint a new deputy clerk on Monday, and hasn’t decided whether to replace Lovejoy. Employees are appointed by the clerk and are not protected by civil service.

“I decided to make some personnel changes in the office to make it run more efficiently now that I’ve been elected to a full term,” Wadsworth said.

Still, the terminations came as a surprise. The women had worked for Wadsworth since he was appointed by the Republican Party in January 2011.

Kauffman said she had just returned to work Friday after taking time off to care for her husband who suffered a heart attack about a month ago.

When reached by phone Friday, Kauffman said she was in shock and wasn’t able to comment. Lovejoy could not be reached for comment.

Months after Wadsworth was appointed clerk, a June 2011 letter sent by his campaign to employees in the clerk’s office asked for their support in the 2012 election.

“If another Clerk from a different political party should be elected in 2012, he or she might ‘clean house’ like each of the Medina County Prosecutors did following the 1980, 1984 and 1988 elections,” the letter read.

Wadsworth distanced himself from the campaign letter in the fall, and said it was sent without his authorization. When asked about the letter and the termination of Lovejoy and Kauffman, Wadsworth said the firings are partially because of a moving-forward strategy, not “cleaning house.”

“This isn’t really a sweeping change,” Wadsworth said. “We try to build a team. Every officeholder has to have a team for the future. This is definitely not a house-cleaning — two out of 39 employees.”

During Wadsworth’s fall campaign against attorney Maryann Chandler, a Democrat, he faced criticism, including over cost-saving statements, and the strongest came from within his own party — his predecessor Kathy Fortney.

Fortney accused him of politicizing the office and said, “I wish now I had never left the office.”

Lovejoy and Kauffman were hired during the 22 years Fortney served as clerk of courts. Fortney said both women were great staff members, and Kauffman served as her deputy clerk for 10 years.

“Julie was an excellent employee,” Fortney said. “She wouldn’t have been my deputy had she not been. It’s a lot of responsibility.”

After Fortney retired in 2010, Kauffman was tapped by Fortney to serve as interim clerk of courts until the party appointed a replacement.

When asked whether there were any problems with the work performed by Lovejoy or Kauffman, Wadsworth declined to provide specifics.

“You just want to move forward with the right people for the future,” he said. “I really don’t care to discuss personnel issues.”

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.