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Suit filed by former Dog Pound worker settled

LISBON — An apparent undisclosed settlement has been reached in the lawsuit filed by a former Columbiana County Dog Pound employee who says she was fired after alerting authorities the dog warden was embezzling funds.

A judgment entry signed by the visiting judge in the case was filed last week in Columbiana County Common Pleas Court by the county’s attorney stating the lawsuit filed by Brenda Austin was being dismissed by all parties.

James Climer, the attorney for the county commissioners’ insurance carrier, confirmed the lawsuit has been settled.

“During the course of their working relationship, certain disputes arose between Brenda Austin and certain members of the county administration. Those disputes have now been resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned, and the parties look forward to moving on,” he said.

Austin worked part-time as a deputy dog warden when she reportedly discovered in January 2016 that Dog Warden Dawn Croft was pocketing cash donations. Austin claimed because her past complaints about Croft were ignored, she bypassed county commissioners and went directly to the county prosecutor’s office, resulting in Croft’s indictment on theft charges. Before Croft was indicted, commissioners fired her and appointed Heidi Pecorelli dog warden.

Croft pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2019 to one year in prison and ordered to repay $26,268 to the county.

Meanwhile, in October 2016, Austin was laid off. Halleck said it was due to lack of work, but Austin alleged in her lawsuit she was fired for her role in bringing Croft’s criminal activity to light. Named as defendants were county commissioners in general and Commissioner Mike Halleck specifically, and Pecorelli. She was later dismissed from the lawsuit by the judge.

Halleck denied the allegations, calling Austin a disgruntled employee. Pecorelli said Austin was insubordinate and habitually late and written up multiple times as a result

Meanwhile, a former county juvenile court employee has dropped her age discrimination/hostile work environment lawsuit. The attorney for Greta Casto filed a motion in common pleas court on June 8 dropping her lawsuit without prejudice, which means it can be refilled within one year.

Casto, 65, worked as a deputy juvenile court clerk from 2003 to 2018, when she claimed she resigned under duress. In her lawsuit, she alleged the court staff engaged in age-based harassment and discrimination.

According to a motion for a summary judgment filed May 8 by the defendants, Casto had a number of work performance issues over the years, including what were described as two “major” mistakes she made in 2018 before quitting.

tgiambroni@mojonews.com

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