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Trumbull 911 director Ernie Cook fired

HR chief suspended 17 days for inappropriate language

WARREN — Following a marathon executive session Thursday, Trumbull County commissioners fired the director of the county’s 911 center and reprimanded the director of human resources.

Ernie Cook, director of the Trumbull County 911 Center, was fired in a 2-0 vote Thursday after commissioners returned from an executive session that lasted from around 11 a.m. — when the commissioners’ regular business was finished — to about 3:20 p.m. Executive sessions are held privately, out of view of the public.

Although Commissioner Frank Fuda was present for the beginning of the session, he had to leave during it and so commissioners Mauro Cantalamessa and Niki Frenchko voted on the matter in person, but Fuda called in his vote, so the decision was unanimous.

Commissioners declined to comment on the decision to fire Cook. The decision is effective immediately, and 911 center employee Patty Goldner, upon her acceptance, will fill the position in the interim as commissioners consider options for the department, Frenchko said.

Cook pleaded no contest Jan. 13 to two misdemeanor charges in Trumbull County Eastern District Court linked to an incident in July 2018 in Brookfield.

Cook, 69, of Brookfield, pleaded no contest to loss of physical control under the influence, a first-degree misdemeanor; and failure to report an accident, a minor misdemeanor. Cook was given a suspended 180-day jail term; a $1,000 fine, of which $500 was suspended; and placed on probation for six months. On the second charge, Cook was fined $150, plus $45 in court costs. Cook previously was police chief in Brookfield and Vienna townships and chief deputy with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s Office.

Cook was accused of colliding with a 17-year-old skateboarder on Crestwood Drive and not stopping after the collision, the Ohio State Highway Patrol report states.

Cook had been director of the 911 center since 2010 and first was appointed while under the sheriff’s office. He later came to work directly for county commissioners.

Cook said he is “exploring his legal options” and that the decision was “shocking” and news to him, which he learned when asked about the commissioners’ decision.

“In 20 years, I’ve never had disciplinary action taken against me,” Cook said. “I was not given the chance to defend myself.”

Cook said he wasn’t informed his employment would be discussed in the session and he wasn’t invited to defend himself. Cook said he has a “stellar” record and since he has been director, implemented a special needs registry and brought digital 911 services to the county with the implementation of the MARCS system for more advanced 911 services.

In a separate executive session on Thursday, commissioners also voted to reprimand Richard Jackson, director of the county human resources department.

In a 2-0 vote, Cantalamessa and Frenchko voted to suspend Jackson without pay for two days for a first incident, and to suspend him 15 days without pay for a second incident, effective today. He will not report to work during the suspension.

Jackson declined to comment on the issue.

Frenchko said both of the incidents involving Jackson pertained to inappropriate language he used with other county employees.

Both incidents occurred this week and involved language that violated county policies.

“We believe every staff member should treat every other staff member, commissioner and county resident with dignity and respect. The county takes these incidents seriously, and when staff fails to uphold these standards, there will be consequences,” Frenchko said.

Cantalamessa said the HR department is expected to set an example for county government.

“It’s an unfortunate situation, but there were two separate infractions from the same individual. Both infractions had to do with insensitivity in the workplace. We need to continue to raise the standards in our office and throughout the county. It’s not about political correctness, but treating individuals with decency and dignity. That starts with the example we set in HR and the commissioners office,” Cantalamessa said.

Commissioners did not release specific details of the inappropriate language, but said Jackson used language with woman employees that was unacceptable and violated county policy.

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