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Plow driver tests positive for drugs


Stephanie Sheldon
Plain Dealer Reporter

Brunswick Hills Township - A former Service Department worker tested positive for drugs after an accident earlier this month that injured a Brunswick man.

It was not the first positive drug test for Dennis Mihalke, who was allowed to remain on the job after failing a test at the time he was hired, apparently in violation of township regulations, according to records.

Mihalke, a snowplow driver, quit the department after the March 3 crash on Grafton Road. The accident happened about 6 a.m. when the plow he was driving slid on an icy road, through a stop sign and into the middle of the road, where he collided with Michael Petrus' pickup truck, a police report said.

Supervisors directed Mihalke to get a drug test. Results show he took the test March 5, two days after the accident, although policy states workers should be tested within eight hours of such an accident.

Results show Mihalke tested positive for marijuana.

Mihalke could not be reached to comment. He resigned March 10, citing a better job offer.

"His drug test is in now and it is in his file," said Trustee Jack Schira. "As soon as we saw that drug test, he was going to be fired. I don't know if that's why he resigned, but I have to think that was part of it."

Trustees voted June 11 to hire Mihalke. He was allowed to begin work June 27, before the required pre-employment drug test results had come back. Because he was already on the job, when the tests came back positive, trustees let him remain employed.

Voting at their July meeting to keep him, Trustees Schira and Linda Hudson cited good reviews from his supervisor, Billy Hudson, who is Linda Hudson's husband.

Trustee David Goodyear voted against keeping Mihalke. He declined to comment.

Linda Hudson said she recommended Mihalke apply for the Service Department job because he performed well on a job he did for her privately at a construction site.

Mihalke dates her daughter, but Hudson said that relationship began after Mihalke's being hired by the township.

Trustee Hudson said that Mihalke passed an initial test at the time of his hire, and that the positive results for marijuana received in late June after he started work were a second test. There is no record of a prior drug test in Mihalke's personnel file.

Schira said they let Mihalke start work without the test results last June because it was a temporary, rather than a Total Body job, and under the condition that he submit to random drug tests. Mihalke did have two random tests, in July and October, which were both negative.

"You could say we violated our own policy," Schira said. "The kid told us he could do without it. I'm not happy at all with Mr. Mihalke that he couldn't stay away from the stuff. I was cheering for him. He was a good worker."

Carlos Corchado Jr., a lawyer representing Petrus, who was treated for injuries at Southwest General Health Center, said there appeared to be "some negligent hiring to this case."

"I think it should send some flags out to the township of Brunswick Hills that there shouldn't be any exceptions in rules that involve safety," he said.