Whistleblower Complaint Demands Removal of Lewis County Animal Shelter Manager

Longtime Staff Members Make a Number of Allegations Against Jennifer Teitzel


Editor's Note: Lewis County Animal Shelter Manager Jennifer Teitzel is not to be confused with Jennifer Partain Teitzel, a Toledo resident who runs Petunia Grace Craft Company.

Four Lewis County Animal Shelter employees are pushing for the removal of manager Jennifer Teitzel, alleging that she asked staff to falsify medical records, created “official-looking, but fake” donation receipts, misappropriated funds and fostered a hostile work environment that ultimately ran off the shelter’s veterinarians. 

The four women — long-time employees Rita Payne, Marcie Dekoker, Robin Williams and Lucy Ford — filed their joint whistleblower complaint this month against Teitzel, who was hired last summer. Three complainants say they are “physically ill with the prospect of having to continue working with Ms. Teitzel.”

County officials — including Teitzel — largely declined to comment on the matter. County Manager Erik Martin said commissioners were advised against making public comments, as an investigation is ongoing and the prosecuting attorney’s office has been notified. Public Health Director JP Anderson, whose department oversees the shelter, also declined to comment. Anderson is accused of “screaming” at an employee and placing two on leave after their complaints.

In her affidavit, animal technician Dekoker, who’s worked for the county for 23 years, wrote that Teitzel “has tried to force” her to falsify vaccination records and to certify feline leukemia tests that were never conducted. She also alleges that Teitzel changed the shelter’s adoption contracts “without the knowledge or permission” of the county prosecutor.

She wrote that despite trying to bring Teitzel up to speed, “it became apparent to me very shortly after her onboarding that Ms. Teitzel had her own agenda contrary to the best interests of the animal shelter at large.”

Ford, a shelter employee of 12 years, said she voiced concern last month after Teitzel placed a “large order” using the shelter vet’s license. According to the women, that vet, Dr. Mark Giffey, along with other partners of the shelter eventually left due to Teitzel’s behavior. 

“In those seven months, we have lost our volunteer veterinarian, two of our casual help, our veterinarian of record, and a longtime foster home provider,” Williams wrote. “Every one of them have told me that it was because of how Ms. Teitzel treated them.”

Giffey, on the other hand, said he’s never met Teitzel and that he retired in 2018, long before she became shelter manager. He did note that he was surprised to learn from Ford that the shelter was still using his license “incorrectly and inappropriately,” and has since remedied the situation, which he said could’ve been an administrative error. 

Payne described Teitzel as having “no boundaries,” and being a “pathological liar.” Payne also wrote that her boss targeted her by prohibiting her from eating in her sight.

“She will use her hostile tone and tell me to not look at her or talk to her if I am eating anything …” she wrote. “She does not have this issue with other employees.”

The women also allege that Teitzel lied in a recent press release about an “imposter” posing as a shelter employee. The report was later picked up by Q13 Fox. In their complaint, the four shelter employees say they had no knowledge of such an imposter. 

“...to my knowledge and research the story was false and a move designed to be a show of power for Ms. Teitzel,” Dekoker wrote. 

According to email correspondences included in Dekoker’s affidavit, it was only after Teitzel told the public “all shelter employees carry county-issued photo identification” that she asked employees to send in pictures for such IDs. 

The women also described cash donations mysteriously disappearing upon Teitzel’s onboarding. 

And the complaint alleges several instances of Teitzel putting members of the public in danger, including claims that she asked an individual to conduct a testicle check on a dog themselves, gave a guinea pig to a child in front of a doberman, and released a feral cat into the main area of the shelter.

According to the complaint, Teitzel is now trying to replace the employees. In addition to demanding that the county remove her, the four employees are also requesting to keep their jobs, to have write-ups issued by Teitzel or Anderson scrubbed, and to be compensated for attorney’s fees and hours thy have been unable to work.

“There is about 65 years of working for the county between us, and we are all planning to leave if Ms. Teitzel is allowed to stay on as manager and misuse donation funds, mistreat animals and mistreat employees,” Williams wrote.