More than four years after filing a racial discrimination complaint, a Wood County sheriff’s deputy will have his case heard in court.
The U.S. Sixth District Court of Appeals last week ruled the complaint filed by Sgt. James Kimble against Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn and the county commissioners contained sufficient circumstantial evidence to be heard in trial.
The decision reverses a dismissal issued in 2009 by the District Court for Northern Ohio.
Kimble, who was promoted to sergeant earlier this year, alleges he was passed over for an environmental enforcement position because he is black.
The post’s responsibilities include enforcing solid waste laws, inspecting junk yards, and supervising the deputy in charge of the inmate litter-control crew.
In 2006, 18 months after Sheriff Wasylyshyn took office, the deputy holding the environmental position announced his early retirement, creating the opening.
According to court records, Chief Deputy Eric Reynolds officially posted the Environmental Sergeant opening at the end of August, but restricted it to current sergeants, none of whom was African American. Shortly after Reynolds announced the opening, Wasylyshyn approached Sergeant Jim Shank and encouraged him to apply. Shank refused for personal reasons, but recommended Kimble—whom he had overseen on road patrol—for the position, since Kimble was trained in litter enforcement.
When the posting period closed without any submissions, Reynolds extended the deadline and opened the position to deputies and included several requirements in the job description: (1) at least five years’ road-patrol experience; (2) a valid commercial driver’s license, to be obtained within six months of receiving the position; (3) flexible days and hours; (4) record-keeping and statistic-development abilities; (5) computer experience; (6) public-speaking ability; and (7) no recent disciplinary issues.
Kimble, who had a commercial driver’s license and considered himself otherwise qualified, applied for the position the first day it opened.
Court filings state the department’s human resource office representative, Joneal Bender, solicited applications from three deputies who passed through her office, even though none expressed interest in the position.
On the posting period final day, Deputy Rodney Konrad, an eight-year veteran, submitted a letter of interest to Bender. Prior to applying, however, Konrad met with Reynolds to discuss his application because he realized he lacked a few months of the required road patrol experience. After talking to Konrad, Reynolds presented the matter to Wasylyshyn, who decided to waive the requirement for him. At that point Reynolds encouraged Konrad “to go ahead and apply anyway.”
Konrad and Kimble were the only applicants to interview before a panel consisting of Bender, Chief Deputy Reynolds, Road Patrol Division Lieutenant William Ervin, and County Administrator Andrew Kalmar and Solid Waste Management District Director Ken Rieman.
After a question-and-answer session, Konrad received 200.5 points; Kimble received 194. Although enforcement rates were not among the selection criteria in the job posting, they were compiled at Bender’s request, and presented to the panel, and showed Konrad had more arrests and citations than Kimble. The panel then took two votes: 3-2 to recommend Kimble if the sheriff “liked the program as it was” and 4-1 to recommend Konrad if the sheriff wanted a more strict enforcement approach.
The sheriff within days announced he was promoting Konrad.
Kimble filed a complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission in April 2007. After speaking with each member of the interview panel, the OCRC issued a determination letter finding “probable cause” for discrimination.