Animal control officer arrested for taking $25

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Officer is one of five county employees owed more than $100,000 for back pay, overtime

By Jacquelyn Stoess Hack

An animal control officer who is owed more than $100,000 by county government for back pay and overtime has been arrested for allegedly taking $25 and forging paperwork related to a lost dog.

Police arrested Elmer James “Jim” Nichter Jr., 47, of La Grange, May 15 for forgery, official misconduct and theft from the Oldham County Animal Shelter.

According to court documents, the charges stem from an incident May 6 when a woman visited the Oldham County Animal Shelter in Buckner to claim her lost pet.

The woman paid the $25 claim fee. However, according to court documents, Nichter allegedly created a fraudulent claim form, forged the woman’s signature and listed that payment was not received.

Nichter arrived at the Oldham County Jail mid-afternoon May 14 and left two hours later on a $1,000 bond.

Oldham County Judge-Executive David Voegele said Nichter has been suspended without pay until the charges are resolved.

Nichter will be arraigned at 9 a.m. Wednesday (May 29) in Oldham district court.

Voegele said the charges are the result of an internal investigation by OCPD. He said County Attorney John Carter also reviewed the charges.

Voegele also said the charges are unrelated to employees’ claims with the Ky. Labor Cabinet, although Oldham County government is still investigating the claims and has not paid the money as stipulated by the labor cabinet.

Nichter is one of four county employees who filed grievances with the Ky. Labor Cabinet in 2012, alleging Oldham County government did not compensate animal control officers for evening and weekend on-call shifts.

The on-call policy for animal control officers required immediate response and prohibited “going to the movies, shopping or out to dinner because you must be able to immediately respond to an emergency,” the policy reads.

Labor cabinet officials issued two notices of violation for Oldham County government, including an order to pay the employees a total of $324,389.30 by March 14, and imposed a $500 fine.

According to a letter dated Feb. 27, state investigator Thomas Yancey stated that Oldham Co. Fiscal Court failed to compensate the animal control officers for overtime and failed to pay minimum wage per hour for on-call time from July 2009 through August 2012.

Yancey tallied compensation for each individual, including Michael Compton, $36,513.40; Joseph DeVuono, $22,399.63; Polly Helton, $33,881.54; Jim Nichter, $103,793.46; and Tom Smith, $127,801.27.

Yancey said his findings are based on monthly schedules of on-call assignments from July 2009 to August 2012.

Carter has refuted the labor cabinet’s findings.

In a letter to the labor cabinet’s investigator, Carter wrote, “It is my concern that some degree of attempted fraud may exist.”

In May 2012, county officials discovered an after-hours/on-call policy for animal control officers and instructed the animal control director to revise the policy to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act, according to a letter from Oldham County Human Resources Manager Tina Schaaf to the labor cabinet.

Schaaf said animal control officers received a memo on July 2 detailing the corrected policy, and each employee acknowledged the memo with his or her signature.

In the memo, Oldham County Animal Control Director Barbara Rosenman wrote that she had repeatedly asked members of fiscal court to appropriately compensate on-call animal control officers for their emergency response.

“I felt one hour of pay for each 16-hour shift was a fair and just compensation for restricting your time and activities,” Rosenman wrote to her staff. “This was denied by fiscal court.”

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