COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio city agreed to rehire an American arrested and detained in North Korea while criticizing his decision to travel there.
Jeffrey Fowle also faces firing if he undergoes risky travel in the future, according to the agreement with the city of Moraine in suburban Dayton signed earlier this week that returns him to his street department job.
Fowle disregarded cautions by the U.S. Secretary of State, his family and acquaintances in traveling to North Korea, Tuesday's agreement said. He should have known detention was a likely result of traveling there, the agreement said.
"Fowle's decision to travel to North Korea (and the resulting unauthorized absence) seriously called into question Fowle's judgment, leadership skills, and priorities, and have raised serious questions about his ability to carry out his job," according to the agreement signed by Fowle and city manager David Hicks.
Fowle, a 56-year-old married father of three, returned home last week after negotiations involving retired diplomat and former Ohio Congressman Tony Hall. He'd been detained nearly six months for allegedly leaving a Bible in a nightclub. A message seeking comment was left with his attorney.
Fowle had worked for the city for 26 years, and Moraine kept him on the payroll even after his available leave was exhausted, Mayor Elaine Allison said Oct. 22, the day Fowle returned home. The city also worked to keep his family's medical coverage going, and was prepared to provide about $70,000 in severance pay, which was never distributed.
Fowle thanked the city for helping "secure my family's future during this difficult time" in a handwritten letter to Hicks Tuesday.
"I look forward to serving the citizens of Moraine again in the Street Department," Fowle said.
Though a small number of U.S. citizens visit North Korea each year as tourists, the State Department strongly advises against it.
Fowle arrived in North Korea on April 29. He is suspected of leaving a Bible in a nightclub in the northern port city of Chongjin.
Two other Americans are still in North Korea. Matthew Miller, from Bakersfield, Calif., is serving a six-year jail term on charges of espionage, after he allegedly ripped his tourist visa at Pyongyang's airport in April and demanded asylum.
Kenneth Bae, of Lynwood, Washington, a Korean-American missionary with health problems, was sentenced to 15 years in jail for alleged anti-government activities. He was arrested in November 2012 while leading a tour group in a special North Korean economic zone.