Settlement includes no skin off former animal control chief Mark Kumpf’s ass
DAYTON, Ohio––The Montgomery County, Ohio board of commissioners are on March 31, 2020 expected to approve a $3.5 million settlement with survivors of Klonda Richey.
Richey, 57, was on February 7, 2014 fatally mauled by her next door neighbors’ two dogs, variously identified in court documents as “large-breed pit bulls, mastiffs, or Cane Corsos.”
The settlement, if approved as anticipated, will be the largest on record in a case brought against an animal control agency after a dog attack, and will be the third believed to reach seven figures in seven months.
The Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care & Control agreed in September 2019 to pay $1.1 million to survivors of Pamela Devitt, 63, killed by four pit bulls on May 9, 2013.
Also in September 2019 the Panhandle Animal Welfare Society, of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, agreed to pay a sum believed to be substantially higher to Zoey Green, age five when severely mauled by a pit bull on March 25, 2017.
Settlement avoids a trial
The settlement of the Klonda Richey case will avoid a trial at which the Montgomery County administration and former county dog warden Mark Kumpf would have had to answer on the witness stand for the repeated failure of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center to respond effectively to Richey’s repeated complaints about the dogs who eventually killed her.
Police shot both dogs at the scene of Richey’s death in order to approach her body. The dogs had reportedly torn off her clothing and left her to bleed to death, alone, on a sub-freezing morning.
“Montgomery County Probate Court Magistrate David Farmer approved the settlement and distribution of wrongful death and survivor benefits earlier this month,” reported Dayton Daily News staff writer Chris Stewart.
“Probate Court Judge Alice McCollum upheld Farmer’s decision to distribute the settlement funds accordingly:
- $53,785.36 to counsel of record for suit expenses advanced;
- $1,400,000 to counsel of record for attorney fees;
- $1,023,107.32 to wrongful death claims to be split equally between Klonda Richey’s siblings, Ted Richey of Indianapolis and Linda Roach of Homosassa, Florida;
- $1,023,107.32 to survivorship claims also to be divided between Ted Richey and Roach.”
Insurance covers most of the payout
Elaborated Stewart, “The county carries liability insurance that will cover most of the $3.5 million settlement. The county commission vote will be for the amount of $332,130.75, reflecting the balance of a $500,000 deductible for which the county is responsible, according to the county.”
Klonda Richey “made approximately 13 calls to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center and at least 11 calls to the Animal Resource Center, seeking protection from the dogs who killed her in the months before her death,” summarized Stewart when the case was filed.
“Richey was so scared of the dogs,” Stewart wrote, “that she installed a fence between the two houses, put up a security camera to monitor when the dogs were off leash, and sought a civil protection order [against the dogs’ owner], which was denied.”
Dog owners convicted of misdemeanors
The dogs’ owners, Andrew Nason, 31, and Julie Custer, 28, each pleaded no contest to two misdemeanor counts of failure to control dogs, and were found guilty in Dayton District Court. Nason was sentenced to serve 150 days in jail, do 500 hours of community service, and pay a $500 fine plus court costs. Custer was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, do 480 hours of community service, and pay a $200 fine plus court costs.
The Richey survivors’ lawsuit, Stewart explained, “claimed Kumpf failed in his duty to enforce existing laws and did not seek to obtain a dangerous dog designation” that might have helped to ensure Richey’s safety.
A “dangerous dog” designation would have required Nason and Custer to pay a higher licensing fee to keep the dogs, and would have obliged them to provide evidence of being adequately insured.
Kumpf led campaign that weakened Ohio dog law
Montgomery County and Kumpf were expected to contend in their defense that previous court interpretations of a 2012 law defining “nuisance,” “dangerous” and “vicious” dogs were unclear.
Kumpf himself reportedly helped to write the 2012 law, which repealed previous Ohio state legislation defining “any breed commonly known as a pit bull dog” as inherently vicious, working closely with the pro-pit bull Animal Farm Foundation and Best Friends Animal Society.
Kumpf then used his influence as a longtime board member with both the National Animal Control Association and the Ohio Dog Wardens Association to help lobby the 2012 law to passage.
The Ohio Dog Wardens Association under previous leadership had always defended the breed-specific legislation.
Ohio Supreme Court reinforced law in 2019
The Ohio Supreme Court in December 2019 ruled that “as long as the prosecution has reason to believe a dog has a history of being dangerous, an official designation of a “dangerous dog” is not required before the dog’s owner can be charged with failing to contain and control a dangerous dog,” reported Dayton Daily News Columbus Bureau correspondent Laura A. Bischoff.
Had the Ohio Supreme Court ruling been in effect when Klonda Richey was killed, dog owners Nason and Custer could have been criminally charged for allegedly causing her death by allowing their dogs to run at large.
“The 5-2 ruling,” Bischoff explained, “reconciles conflicting rulings from two lower courts.
The high court ruling said state law defines a dangerous dog as one that has caused a non-serious injury to someone or killed another dog. Vicious dogs are defined as dogs that caused serious injury to a person. Someone who has been ticketed for failing to keep control of a dog three or more times can also be considered owner of a dangerous dog.”
Bill to strengthen law still pending
Noted Bischoff, “For nearly six years,” since Richey was killed, “local state lawmakers have tried — without success — to beef up Ohio law governing dangerous and vicious dogs.
“State Representative Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), in January 2019 introduced a bill requiring investigation or follow up on every call to a dog warden; requiring owners to respond to warnings or postings at their home about their dogs; [and] allowing witnesses to give sworn statements regarding dog attacks on people,” Bischoff recalled.
The Antani bill would also increase the penalties for dog owners whose dogs “seriously injure or kill a person or kill a companion animal,” Bischoff added.
Antani told Bischoff that “The bill is still working its way through the committee process,” she wrote.
“Antani named the proposed bill after 9-year-old Savannah Coleman, a Miami Township girl who was attacked in July 2018 by a neighbor’s 60-pound pit bull,” Bischoff mentioned.
“Savannah suffered a skull fracture, nine lacerations to her scalp, three lacerations to her right ear, and two lacerations and a puncture wound to her right hand,” Bischoff added. “She required hundreds of stitches, a blood transfusion and five nights in the hospital, her mother said.”
County destroyed animal control truck logs
In view of Kumpf’s role in passing the 2012 law, a jury might have had difficulty believing that he did not understand it, even before the Ohio Supreme Court ruling clarified it.
Meanwhile, in mid-2018 the initial lawsuit against Kumpf and Montgomery County was amended to additionally allege that Montgomery County had “willfully and with malicious purpose destroyed highly relevant public records,” specifically animal control truck logs, to prevent the plaintiffs from obtaining them.
Explained Dayton Daily News reporter Stewart, “Animal Resource Center truck logs from 2013 and 2014 — in the period just preceding Richey’s death — had been destroyed in 2017, according to a handwritten list produced by Animal Resource Center supervisor Robert Sexton in a March 2018 deposition. Those logs tracked center officer responses to calls and complaints about dogs.”
Four other dog attack deaths on Kumpf’s watch
The Richey death was only the first of three in Montgomery County that called into question Kumpf’s competence.
Jonathan Quarles Jr., just seven months old, was killed in July 2014 by a pit bull who had previously attacked a mail carrier and another dog, in separate incidents. The pit bull owner, Kimiko Hardy, had recently completed a two-and-a-half-hour course on responsible dog ownership taught by Kumpf himself.
Convicted on six counts resulting from Quarles’ death, Hardy was in June 2016 sentenced to serve three years in prison.
Musician Maurice Brown, 60, of Dayton, was killed in April 2017 by a pit bull from an address where pit bulls had been the subject of repeated complaints since 2011, including in one instance after a nine-year-old girl was mauled.
Two other Montgomery County dog attack fatalities during Kumpf’s tenure preceded those of Richey and Brown. Dawn Juergens, 75, was killed by her own two Cane Corsos on September 1, 2012, while Elizabeth Hirt, 93, died on December 11, 2012, two weeks after she was mauled by her own two Boston terriers.
This remains the only fatal or disfiguring attack by Boston terriers on record.
County fired Kumpf in December 2018
Despite Kumpf’s questionable history pertaining to dangerous dogs, Montgomery County, before the Team Shelter USA assessment, strongly defended him, awarding him a 2.5% pay raise in August 2014, six months after Klonda Richey’s death, and allocating at least $165,000 since September 2015 toward the cost of defending him against the lawsuit pursued by the Richey family.
The Montgomery County board of commissioners fired Kumpf on December 14, 2018, two weeks after the Montgomery County Animal Resource center flunked an extensive procedural review done from November 26, through November 30, 2018 by the shelter consulting firm Team Shelter USA.
The Team Shelter USA evaluation found that Animal Resource Center staff “improperly stored vaccines, reused syringes and likely ran afoul of the state law and the federal Drug Enforcement Agency by not keeping track of a euthanasia solution called Fatal Plus,” Dayton Daily News staff writer Chris Stewart wrote at that time.
Dog’s body vanished despite judge’s order
Stewart updated on January 9, 2019 that “Both the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office opened separate investigations” into the allegations pertaining to possible misuse or mishandling of controlled substances.
“A Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office investigator has been looking into other allegations made against the Animal Resource Center that are potentially criminal,” Stewart added, “including the disappearance of a dog’s body ordered preserved by a judge in a criminal case against its owners.”
The dogs’ owners, convicted of neglect, on August 23, 2019 lost an appeal of their convictions. The appeal was based on alleged procedural violations.
“The county continued to defend [Kumpf] in the Richey lawsuit even throughout a termination complaint Kumpf had filed with Ohio against the county,” Stewart noted.
Won settlement, got raise from Detroit
“Montgomery County spent up to another $40,000 on outside counsel to settle the employment dispute with Kumpf five months after his firing,” Stewart summarized. “The county agreed to pay him 17 weeks of salary,” about $28,000, “and provide a neutral reference letter.”
Based in part on that reference letter, Detroit chief operating officer Hakim Berry on September 23, 2019 hired Mark Kumpf as the city’s fourth animal control director in as many years, at a reported salary of $100,000 a year––a raise of $14,000 a year from his Montgomery County salary of $86,611 in 2018.
Finished Stewart, “Kumpf and [Montgomery County] are defendants in another case still pending. Lindsey and Josh Glowney filed a lawsuit in 2018 after their dog Dyson was euthanized at the Animal Resource Center in 2016, five days after being taken from their Kettering yard.”