Investigation Finds Jail Followed Proper Procedures

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After further investigation into three anonymous letters alleging misconduct at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail, The Logan Daily News has found that the jail has followed proper disciplinary measures.

The letters, sent to county commissioners in Athens, Hocking, Morgan and Perry in 2012, outlined numerous allegations of misconduct — criminal and otherwise — committed by former and current SEORJ employees. The letters also accused many employees of having criminal records.

“Employees are still working that have criminal backgrounds. By [the jail’s] policies, this is totally unacceptable. How can employees with prior convictions police convicted inmates?” the person wrote in the third letter.

SEORJ Warden Jeremy Tolson declined an interview with The Logan Daily News.

Some named employees did have criminal charges, mostly for traffic violations and misdemeanor offenses.

SEORJ Maintenance Supervisor Von Godenschwager has eight traffic violations and a wildlife violation, a third-degree misdemeanor.

Godenschwager was convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor charge of no operator’s license that stemmed from an incident on April 6, 2012. Godenschwager ran a red light and was pulled over by Nelsonville Police. He was placed in handcuffs and failed field sobriety tests.

He then became “extremely disrespectful” and told the officers he was a “regional jail employee and had a lot of friends there” and “they would not take kindly to this and he would be sorry,” according to an SEORJ administration report.

In accordance with the jail’s personnel policy for violating discipline by being convicted of a misdemeanor, Godenschwager was suspended for five days without pay. The suspension is a reprimand for a group two violation, according to the jail’s policy.

Because he told the police officers he was an employee of the jail, he committed “borderline” violation of using his “official position or identification for personal gain,” which is a group three violation that would result in termination.

Upon further investigation of the accusation of the misconduct mentioned in the letters, SEORJ has followed its disciplinary policy for the misconducts that could be verified.

SEORJ Food Service Director Jan Hartman was named more in the letters than any other current or former employee.

On Jan. 15, 2013, an administration report was filed about Hartman charging $472.95 to the jail’s account for food items used for his personal business, Guns & Hoses Catering, in October 2012.

Hartman violated a group one offense of “obligating the office for any expense, service or performance without authorization.” He was suspended for three days without pay and reimbursed the jail.

Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn turned the letters over to the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. Though the letter named numerous employees and made accusations of criminal misconduct, no criminal charges have been filed.