By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
HAMILTON - Accusations of inappropriate absences, which resulted in Middletown Mayor David Schiavone and three others resigning from their Butler County Probation Department jobs, have surfaced against a fifth probation employee.
Probation officer James Armbruster of Monroe, former chair of the Middletown City Commission (forerunner to the City Council), was notified Thursday that he faces five allegations of departmental misconduct, records show. Armbruster didn't return a telephone call seeking comment Thursday.
A predisciplinary conference is set for June 17; if the allegations are found to have merit, he faces discipline "up to and including removal from employment," records show.
Armbruster, a probation officer since 1997, had been on medical leave since March but returned to work Tuesday under restrictions. Armbruster is required to stay in his office from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each workday except for an hour lunch break at a pre-approved time. He also is required to submit detailed activity reports.
The accusations against Armbruster follow Schiavone's written resignation from his county job. Schiavone, whose probation-department resignation takes effect Monday, said he plans to continue his mayoral duties as usual. He has refused to publicly account for his alleged improper absences, despite an earlier assertion that he would answer all questions about the situation.
Armbruster claimed he worked 26 hours of overtime during February, records show, although he logged only one "field visit" with a person whose probation he was supposed to be monitoring. The four remaining charges against Armbruster involve alleged workday visits to the home of Bill Gray, a longtime probation department employee who resigned earlier this year amid an internal investigation into employees' work habits. Two other employees, Rick Baker and Ron Wells, resigned within days of Gray's resignation. They and Schiavone also had been accused of repeated visits to Gray's home; no one has said what the men may have been doing there, but officials have confirmed the men's workday activities were under surveillance.
A sixth man, who is employed by the Ohio Adult Parole Authority, was reassigned after an investigation into his alleged visits to Gray's home.
Butler County officials on Thursday released a copy of the employment-termination agreement between Schiavone and the county Common Pleas Court, which oversees the probation department.
The agreement says Schiavone and county officials reached the agreement "to avoid the time and expense" of continuing with disciplinary proceedings against Schiavone; the court accepted his resignation "in lieu of making any finding based on the disciplinary charges."
Schiavone was accused of 10 inappropriate absences during February and March, including drinking alcohol at a Hamilton County tavern on county time on St. Patrick's Day and giving a Feb. 10 mayoral speech after he left work to care for a sick child. He also was accused of approving time sheets for Gray, Baker and Wells when he was "aware that they were not working or sick," records show.
Schiavone declined to discuss his alleged absences Wednesday and maintained his silence Thursday, even after being reminded of his previous public statement that he would be "happy to answer all questions at the end of the investigation."
Schiavone on Thursday said "under the agreement I'm not to make any comments ... per advice from my attorney."
Michael D. Clark and Steve Kemme contributed to this report. E-mail email@example.com
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