Former Animal Shelter Secretary to Head up Security for Ohio County

Summit County Executive James McCarthy has hired the daughter of County Councilman Dan Congrove for a job that had gone unfilled since its creation.

Christine Congrove, who had been a county sheriff's deputy, began working as executive assistant to the director of public safety in the executive's office this month.

The job never had been filled under McCarthy's administration, and McCarthy said he did not consider or interview any other candidates for the job.

"She's young and bright and we needed somebody to do some work around there," he said.

Congrove, 22, worked for more than two years as a secretary at the county Animal Shelter. She attended the University of Akron, but did not graduate. After graduating from the police academy, she was hired in October as a provisional sheriff's deputy.

Her provisional status was contingent upon passing a civil service exam within two years, but she left her job before taking the test, according to Allyson Miller-Leonard, personnel director for the sheriff's department.

Congrove will maintain her commission as a special deputy, and is permitted to carry a gun while on the job, Miller-Leonard said.

Congrove will be paid $18.41 an hour, for an annual salary of $38,292, in her new job. She declined to comment.

Councilman Congrove, D-Akron, heads the council's public safety committee, but said he did not think his daughter's hiring in the public safety department should be an issue, noting that she was with the sheriff's department before taking this job.

"I don't see a conflict whatsoever," he said. "I've been interested in law enforcement for all 13 years that I've been on County Council."

"She has the qualifications. If she didn't have the qualifications for it, I would be concerned about it. But because her last name is Congrove, I don't think that should have any impact. If she's qualified, she's qualified. It should not be a negative."

The councilman said he had nothing to do with his daughter getting the job.

McCarthy defended the hire, saying: "She was already working for the county. All I did was transfer her back. It's not like I went out and searched her out. She's not a new county hire. It's not a new family member that we hired. She's been working in the government."

Dan Congrove, whose district includes much of southern Akron, including the Ellet area, has maintained a good relationship with McCarthy, despite strained relations between County Council and the executive's office. Both are Democrats.

On June 27, Congrove broke ranks with other council members and was the lone vote to allow McCarthy to hire the Cleveland law firm of Johnson & Colaluca for labor negotiations. The measure failed.

McCarthy said hiring Congrove's daughter nine days later was not an effort to repay Congrove.

Councilman Congrove pointed out that there previously was someone in charge of security for the executive's office: Barry Gradwohl, who has left the county's employ.

Jill Skapin, director of communications for McCarthy, said that while Christine Congrove will assume some of Gradwohl's duties, she was not hired to fill that specific job, which remains vacant.

Law Director Karen Doty said there are no plans to fill the security job. It was decided to fill the executive assistant's job instead so the department could have "more of a utility player," instead of someone who was solely for security.

Skapin said Congrove's work would include creating evacuation plans for all county buildings; recommending security devices for county facilities, such as security cameras, swipe-card entrance devices and fencing; and assisting workers in the Ohio Building with security problems, including stolen property, unusual activity or unauthorized people in secure areas.

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