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Montgomery County dog warden praised after ‘difficult year’


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This newspaper has been following the Klonda Richey case and proposed changes to the state’s dog law since Richey’s death in February 2014. A newspaper investigation found that Richey sought protection from her neighbors and their dogs through the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, the police and courts for the two years before she was mauled to death.

The current state law, which took effect in May 2012, created three designations for problem dogs and removed pit bulls from the definition of a vicious dog. Each designation, under state law, is defined as:

Nuisance: Without provocation and off their owners’ property, chase or menace someone or attempt to bite a person.

Dangerous: Without provocation, injured someone, killed another dog or had three or more violations of regulations covering the confinement or control of dogs.

Vicious: Without provocation, killed or caused serious injury to a person.

The head of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center has received a pay raise based on a good 2014 job evaluation — a move criticized by some residents who say the agency did not do enough to prevent two fatal dog attacks last year.

Mark Kumpf, director of the Animal Resource Center, was given a wage increase of 2.5 percent, from $80,562 a year to $82,576. This decision has angered family members, friends and neighbors of Klonda Richey, who was mauled by two mixed-mastiff dogs in February, 2014, outside her Dayton home.

Kumpf has been the director of the agency since July 2006. He was praised for leading the agency through a “very difficult year,” according to his 2014 evaluation obtained by the Dayton Daily News through a public records request.

“A difficult year? That’s an understatement, I’d say,” said Richey’s cousin, Carol Myers. “In my opinion, the man should be fired, not be given a raise.”

The evaluation — appraised by Assistant County Administrator Amy Wiedeman — was signed and completed March 12. In the evaluation summary, it was determined Kumpf met expectations in “Principled Behaviors and is eligible for an increase.”

“When someone needs help, our officers are the best trained and best equipped in the state to provide that assistance,” Kumpf said last month after a county commission meeting in which several officers were recognized.

Requests to interview Kumpf, Wiedeman and Commissioner Dan Foley for this story were declined.

“Mark’s performance evaluation speaks for itself,” Montgomery County spokeswoman Cathy Petersen said in an email. “The comments from Assistant County Administrator Amy Wiedeman and the survey respondents are sufficient and reflect the evaluation of Mark’s performance.”

Petersen also said Kumpf and the others could not speak to the media on this case because of pending litigation against the county. In February, an attorney handling Richey’s estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Montgomery County officials.

Petersen said Kumpf’s salary increase is the budgeted increase for county employees.

According to his 29-page evaluation, Kumpf consistently met expectations, and exceeded expectations in some categories.

“You have led the agency through a very difficult year. Your high marks from your direct reports denote follow through and full support of the Mission,” it says in the integrity section of Kumpf’s evaluation.

The Animal Resource Center has 29 employees. The agency is responsible for enforcing Ohio’s dog laws in the county, as well as rescuing and sheltering lost and stray dogs.

The performance of the Animal Resource agency has been under scrutiny after the deaths of the 57-year-old Richey and 7-month-old Johnathan Quarles, Jr. last year. Both were mauled last year by dogs that had previous complaints filed against them with the agency.

“Where’s the justice?” Myers said. “You’re going to reward someone for not doing his job? How sad. In most positions, when you don’t do your job, you get fired.”

Jon Brazelton, vice president of the Redcrest Neighborhood Association where Richey lived, said the lawsuit against the county is going to ultimately end up costing the county’s taxpayers.

“He had a duty for public safety, and he never fulfilled his duty,” Brazelton said. “That guy is worthless as a dog catcher. He didn’t do his job.”

Richey was a member of the Redcrest Neighborhood Association.

“How he can get a glowing evaluation is beyond my comprehension,” he said.

Members of the county’s Animal Advisory Board and the Animal Resource Center staff were surveyed as part of Kumpf’s evaluation. Some of the comments included:

  • “The biggest area of opportunity … is improving communication and following up on requested information. … On the whole, though, this is an excellent facility with a dedicated group of individuals who are making a difference in the community.”
  • “I know he is in a stressful position, but continues to brainstorm new ways to improve the ARC and public relations. He is very knowledgeable and a good leader.”
  • “It has been an extremely difficult year but Mark has been professional and has never lost direction of the mission we are all trying to accomplish and he should be commended.”
  • “With several high-profile cases garnering negative media attention at times, Mark did an excellent job overall keeping his staff motivated and encouraged.”

 

John and Paula Humphrey, who live near the Fairview Avenue/Cherry Drive intersection, said the agency is not living up to its mission because the stray dog problems in the Redcrest neighborhood still exist.

“They don’t understand that the public does not feel safe with this dog warden,” Paula said. “We in the public deserve better. For the county to dismiss the concerns of the public is frightening.”

In the two years preceding her death, Richey sought help from the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, the police and courts for protection from the dogs and her neighbors, an investigation by this newspaper found.

Richey, 57 when she died, was attacked outside of her home at 31 E. Bruce Ave. early Feb. 7, 2014. Her body lay outside in sub-freezing temperatures until a passerby reported seeing a naked body in the snow around 8:15 a.m. When police responded, the dogs charged them and were shot and killed.

In September, a Montgomery County grand jury declined to indict the dog’s owners, Andrew Nason and Julie Custer, on felony charges related to Richey’s death. They were charged by the city of Dayton with two misdemeanor counts of failure to control dogs.

Nason, 30, and Custer, 27, pleaded no contest to the charges last month and Dayton Municipal Court Judge Carl Henderson found them guilty on two counts each of failure to control dogs.

Nason and Custer will be sentenced at May 27 in Dayton Municipal Court. Stephanie Cook, chief prosecutor for the city of Dayton, said they each face a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine — the strongest punishment they can face.

The dogs were registered to Custer, who lived at 35 E. Bruce Ave. along with the homeowner, Nason.

In total, there were 13 complaints about 35 E. Bruce Ave. filed with the Animal Resource Center. There were another 46 calls to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center related to Nason’s home between Dec. 27, 2011, and Richey’s death. Richey or someone associated with her phone number called the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center 23 times. The other calls were anonymous.

The majority of calls were about the dogs at the Nason house, but other calls included complaints about juveniles, fireworks and other activity.

The two dogs that attacked Richey did not have a designation as nuisance, dangerous or vicious because they had no history of biting someone or killing another dog, Kumpf has said.

Johnathan Jr. was here with family from Indianapolis to visit relatives when he was mauled by an American Staffordshire terrier on July 20. The infant, who was with a step-grandmother at a Dayton home, died from multiple blunt force injuries. The death was ruled accidental.

The dog had a history of attacks on people and animals, according to records obtained by the Dayton Daily News from the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center. The dog had not been designated as nuisance, dangerous or vicious, the county previously said.

Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, introduced legislation last month — the Klonda Richey Act — seeking to toughen laws on vicious and dangerous dogs and hold dog owners more accountable.

Richey’s estate also filed a wrongful death lawsuit last May against Nason and Custer. That trial is set to begin Aug. 24.



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