December 18, 2014

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Former manager sues Goodwill Industries for wrongful termination

The former human resources manager for Goodwill Industries of Lorain County filed a lawsuit against the agency Friday, claiming wrongful termination after she was fired for investigating an alleged theft scheme within the agency.

Pamela Dietz, of Avon Lake, filed the lawsuit in Lorain County Common Pleas Court in a detailed complaint that spells out how she learned of the theft allegations and the attempts by Goodwill to cover up the matter. Dietz was fired in October by president and CEO Steve Greenwell, who is named as a defendant in the lawsuit. She began working for the agency Feb. 18, 2013.

Jack Arbogast also is named as a defendant. He is described as the director of donated goods for Goodwill.

Dietz is suing for both compensatory and punitive damages for lost wages and emotional stress.

Dietz’s lawsuit does not mince words in describing the alleged theft scheme. It said Dietz learned how items donated to Goodwill were being resold by Arbogast as well as an employee from the Lorain store and her husband on the auction website eBay. Goodwill employee Larry Abetya came to Dietz with that information, the lawsuit claims. The lawsuit said he was involved in a personal relationship with Arbogast.

Abetya sought Dietz’s help in September with a request for time off to “deal with the stress and anxiety he was experiencing as a result of his relationship with Arbogast.” There are no details on how the supposed relationship started, but Abetya told Dietz that on April 11, 2013, he was involved in a car accident while driving a 1994 Geo Prism.

The lawsuit said Arbogast took the car from Goodwill and gave it to Abetya. He also allowed Abetya to live in his home and then in a rental property owned by Arbogast.

But the relationship began to suffer, and that is when Abetya aimed to take a break, the lawsuit said.

Beyond the Geo Prism, the lawsuit said Arbogast would regularly take donated goods from Goodwill including other cars, a set of speakers, a boat and a pool table. Several accounts were set up on eBay to sell the stolen items.

“Abetya told Dietz that Arbogast, (the Lorain assistant manager) and her husband would then split the proceeds of items they sold on eBay,” the complaint said.

By Sept. 19, Dietz began an investigation into the allegation. She contacted Greenwell and interviewed the Lorain employee.

Attempts to contact Greenwell at the Lorain business office of Goodwill were unsuccessful. A receptionist said Greenwell was away from the office due to the Easter holiday.

A call to Dietz’ attorney Brian Spitz was not returned.

Soon after starting the investigation, Dietz said Greenwell began attempting to shut down her efforts. She wanted to contact police for further investigation.

Lorain police Capt. Roger Watkins said he received a theft complaint involving Goodwill about that time. The investigation found nothing criminal and the matter was closed.

A copy of the police report was not available Friday.

About the same time, Dietz said Arbogast came to her and made reference to a loaded pistol he kept in his vehicle glovebox. He told her he used it to scare somebody, and Dietz took that as a threat against her for continuing her investigation.

Abetya also told Dietz he began receiving anonymous threatening text messages. Additionally, Greenwell began being critical of Dietz’s work, calling her out for spelling errors and typos in her work that could be grounds for termination.

By mid-October, strife within the organization was at a tipping point. The lawsuit said Greenwell held a meeting with Dietz and Goodwill’s Director of Finance Nancy Eversman, where several questions were asked to see if either had disclosed private details about a settlement agreement and personal medical information.

By Oct. 23, Dietz was out of a job.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.