December 20, 2014

Elyria
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Goodwill leader responds to allegations of theft

The head of Goodwill Industries of Lorain County said he hopes the organization’s reputation won’t be tarnished by allegations that Goodwill employees were stealing donations.

“We take every accusation of theft seriously,” Goodwill CEO and President Steve Greenwell said Sunday. “Because any dollar that we lose to theft takes away from what our mission is, which is to provide employment training for people in Lorain County.”

A lawsuit filed Friday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court accused Jack Arbogast, Goodwill director of donated goods, and another employee, whose last name was not included, of stealing. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Pamela Dietz, formerly Goodwill’s human resources manager, and claims that Dietz was wrongfully terminated from her job.

The suit also stated employee Larry Abetya in September told Dietz he had been living in Arbogast’s basement and crashed a car he said Arbogast gave him. Abetya said the car had been donated to Goodwill.

He said Arbogast had stolen a boat, several cars, a pool table and speakers that were donated to Goodwill and sold some of the items on eBay. Abetya said an employee named Jessica and her husband also were involved in the thefts.

The lawsuit said Greenwell didn’t believe the accusations and told Dietz not to go to police. Shortly thereafter, Arbogast, who couldn’t be reached Sunday, is accused of trying to intimidate Dietz by telling her he carried a pistol in his car and had used it in the past to “scare somebody.”

In an Oct. 15 police report, Dietz said Abetya told her Arbogast sold the boat and car to salvage yards and sold the other items on eBay. The report said Abetya had received threatening voicemails since talking to Dietz, who is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.

The report said Dietz, fired about a week after filing the report, told police Greenwell was covering for Arbogast and “stonewalled” her. Police spokesman Capt. Roger Watkins on Friday said police found no criminal wrongdoing and closed the investigation.

Greenwell wouldn’t say why Dietz was fired but noted that police found no wrongdoing. He said Goodwill’s policy is that any donated item must be displayed at their stores for at least seven days before an employee can purchase it.

Greenwell said that after Dietz raised questions, records were found showing the car Abetya said Arbogast gave him had been sold by Goodwill. He said the donor was notified and the money deposited into a bank to be used for services. “I hope people will keep an open mind,” he said.

Greenwell said Goodwill, which has a $3.9 million annual budget, 160 full- and part-time employees, and stores in Avon, Avon Lake, Elyria, Lorain, North Ridgeville, Oberlin and Vermilion, is heavily dependent on donations. Services include job training for ex-convicts and welfare recipients, semi-annual job fairs and contracted work by Goodwill employees for local businesses.

About 80 percent of services come from donation.

“It’s just so important to me that we use as much as we can to help with our programs,” Greenwell said.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.