BEAVERCREEK TOWNSHIP — The former employee named in a lawsuit by Beavercreek Township allegedly falsified college degree information and documents.
In the lawsuit, filed Sept. 22 in Greene County Common Pleas Court, the township alleges that James Barone — who served as assistant to the fiscal officer and finance director — “materially misrepresented his credentials to the township and the township staff, and in doing so, he defrauded the township and mis-appropriated township funds.”
According to his resume, Barone earned a degree in business management from Youngstown State University and provided the township with a copy of his diploma. However a letter in his personnel file from the university registrar office said that YSU does not award such a degree and that all degrees show month, day and year awarded — which the diploma supplied to the township did not. The letter also stated that “the signatures on the degree are totally false.”
Barone did not graduate or receive a degree of any kind, according to the school.
The township seeks a $25,000 judgment for compensatory and liquidated damages for fraud, civil theft and unjust enrichment, according to a press release from Township Administrator Alex Zaharieff and court records.
“He was getting paid according to the credentials he said he had,” Township Trustee Carol Graff said. “We felt at this point in time it was fraud.”
Gregory Finnerty, Barone’s Dublin-based attorney, said a college degree was not requisite for the position and the township can’t establish the damages.
”… it required a degree or ‘any combination of training or experience which provides the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities,’ ” Finnerty said in an email to the Gazette. “The position description also called for a minimum of ‘5-years of experience.’ James Barone was hired by the Beavercreek Township fiscal officer in 2007 after having gained ten plus years’ experience serving the fiscal office in one of Ohio’s largest townships. That he had the requisite experience to fulfill the duties of his office cannot be questioned.”
Finnerty also said that before making “this allegation in a legal filing costly to township residents,” the trustees should have verified the information with Fiscal Officer Christy Ahrens to gain a true understanding as to why she hired Barone.
“One simple conversation and trustees could have learned that where my client had attended college and for how long was never a consideration in her decision to hire him,” Finnerty said.
Finnerty added that a separation agreement was signed by all three trustees, which purported to represent “an effort to amicably resolve all claims between the parties, known and unknown.”
Zaharieff, in his previous press release, said the township attempted to resolve the matter, but “Mr. Barone, through his attorney, was not willing to resolve this matter to the satisfaction of the township.”
Barone was employed by the Township from 2007 until 2016. He began as an assistant to the fiscal officer and was named finance director — reporting directly to the township administrator — during a restructuring of the department in 2015, according to Graff.
In February 2016, Ahrens cited the Ohio Revised Code and was able to hire an assistant to the fiscal officer and other personnel needed to have the fiscal office operate efficiently. Graff said under the ORC, it’s up to the trustees to authorize financial remuneration, so they asked legal counsel to investigate other salary scales of other townships with similar structures. Graff said the township authorized the median salary, which turned about to be approximately half of what they had been paying.
They also gave Ahrens several weeks to hire a new assistant to the fiscal officer and payroll clerk and eliminate the finance director position. Graff said Barone chose not to apply for either of the new positions. There was a severance agreement in place with Barone dated May 9, 2016, under which he received approximately $19,600 in sick leave and vacation leave.
Ahrens filed a complaint in May 2016 with the Ohio Supreme Court, alleging that the employees are not being paid properly.
“She wants the higher salaries,” Graff said.
Graff had no complaints with the job Barone did. His personnel file contains one instance of discipline, when he was mandated to the Miami Valley Hospital employee assistance program in 2012 as a result of allegedly making an inappropriate comment to a fellow employee of a sexual nature.
The lawsuit is assigned to Judge Stephen Wolaver.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.