County legal bills involving fired Animal Resource Center director hit $280,000

Mark Kumpf

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Mark Kumpf

The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center director who was fired in December has appealed his dismissal, prompting county commissioners on Tuesday to approve $40,000 on outside attorneys to represent the county against Mark Kumpf.

But less than a week after Kumpf appealed to the state’s Personnel Review Board about his firing in January, county commissioners had approved another $75,000 to spend this year on different attorneys to represent Kumpf and the county in a wrongful death case brought by the estate of Klonda Richey, who was mauled to death by a dog in 2014.

MORE: County commissioners officially fire animal shelter director

Since 2015, county commissioners have approved spending at least $240,000 on outside attorneys to defend the county and Kumpf, who became director of the ARC in 2006 and spent his last day employed with the county Dec. 14.

Kumpf was terminated “involuntarily,” according to county personnel records. Previous to Kumpf’s dismissal, the county said Kumpf had filed a workers’ compensation claim and had not been reporting to work.

The State Personnel Board of Review has jurisdiction over employment-related matters pertaining to exempt employees in the classified civil service, to non-exempt employees in the classified service who have not been organized, and non-exempt employees whose collective bargaining agreement allows an appeal, according to the board’s website.

Montgomery County commissioners “approved the personnel action removing you from your appointed unclassified position,” reads Kumpf’s termination letter sent Dec. 13 from David S. Holbrook, the county’s interim human resources director.

“The Board of County Commissioners desires to move forward with new leadership in the department in order to implement recommendations from an outside audit,” the termination letter continued.

Consultants with Team Shelter USA gave the ARC a top-to-bottom review during the last week of November, shortly before Kumpf was terminated. Robert Gruhl was named interim director to focus on 30 emergency action items outlined in the consultant’s final assessment.

MORE: Animal shelter’s report: Dozens of emergency actions needed

Kumpf’s removal promised to make 2019 “a transformative year” for the facility, said Montgomery County Administrator Michael Colbert when announcing last year that Kumpf’s employment with county was ending.

“The commissioners and I were troubled and dismayed by the overall findings of this report,” said. “We care deeply about the well-being of people and pets in our community. We have made improving the Animal Resource Center and increasing our live release rate a top priority for our administration.”

MORE: DEA and county sheriff open animal shelter investigations

Colbert on Tuesday declined to comment on Kumpf’s appeal. Phone calls seeking comment for this story to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office as well as to Kumpf and Kumpf’s attorney, Jeffrey M. Silverstein, were not returned Tuesday afternoon.

The next proceeding in Kumpf’s employment appeal is a jurisdictional duties hearing scheduled May 13.

Montgomery County has been ordered by Administrative Law Judge Raymond M. Geis to file no later than April 30 the specific statutory basis for which it asserts Kumpf was an unclassified employee. The parties are also ordered to exchange a list of potential witnesses by then.

MORE: Critics target Montgomery Co. Animal Resource Center for animal deaths

Representation of the county in the employment appeal case will be handled by Robert T. Dunlevey Jr. and Douglas C. Anspach Jr., both of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP, according to the resolution approved by all three county commissioners on Tuesday.

A Feb. 5 email from Todd Ahearn, an assistant prosecuting attorney, to Geis indicates Montgomery County Prosecutor Mat Heck contacted the outside counsel “due to a conflict.”

Scrutiny of the ARC under Kumpf came to a head last year from animal welfare advocates about the number of animals put to death at the facility as well as claims of mismanagement and from legal challenges. The Richey lawsuit also alleges the ARC destroyed records in that case. Documents in a different lawsuit claimed the body of a companion dog put to death at the shelter was ordered preserved by a judge but can’t be found.

MORE: Dog-mauling lawsuit: County accused of destroying records

Statistics show the shelter has improved its live release rate in recent months to a modern-shelter-standard of around 90 percent.

While fewer animals are euthanized, the shelter population has risen, prompting the county to hold free adoption events, including one this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the ARC, 6790 Webster St. The adoptions include spay or neutering, initial vaccinations, dog licenses, microchipping, rabies vaccination and heartworm testing.

RELATED: Animal shelter nears capacity, need for permanent homes ‘urgent’

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