VIENNA - Port Authority officials are expected Friday to discuss the future employment of Trumbull County's highest-paid public official, Western Reserve Port Authority Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon.
The three-year contract paying DeLeon a base salary of $155,000 a year plus bonuses and benefits will automatically renew for one year unless she is notified in writing by Nov. 7 of the board's intention to nonrenew it.
The executive director has headed economic development issues involving the Port Authority since her hiring in late 2009, but in recent months, DeLeon has faced calls from some public officials, including two Trumbull County commissioners and some members of the Port Authority board of directors, to end her contract as written.
Funds for the economic development arm of the Port Authority, including DeLeon's salary, came in 2009 from pooled resources from both counties, area communities such as Warren, Niles, Howland and Youngstown, and the Western Reserve Building Trades Council.
Wednesday, Trumbull Commissioner Dan Polivka said he would stand by his earlier comments calling for someone new to take over the post.
By contrast, Mahoning Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she would support keeping DeLeon, but like many other officials, voiced opposition to the payroll amount with no specific contractual incentives.
"I don't think the salary that she gets is something that I would be agreeable to," Rimedio-Righetti said. "I do feel they should renew her and adjust the salary.''
A fair salary might be closer to half the amount she is now paid, with incentives tied to specific business accomplishments, she said.
Duties and responsibilities listed in DeLeon's contract are vague. They indicate she is chief operating officer for the port. She is instructed to maintain proper liaison with Mahoning and Trumbull counties, along with other appropriate government agencies.
The only compensation criteria spelled out in the contract includes the "establishment of a bond fund and job growth, creation and retention." The contract also says the performance parameters for payment of a bonus ''will be established on a mutually agreeable, quantifiable performance criteria by Oct. 30, each calendar year."
However, public records obtained by the Tribune Chronicle indicate no parameters were ever agreed upon.
Correspondence about DeLeon's performance reviews during her tenure indicated the board had submitted some performance parameters to DeLeon for her review, but she had not responded to them. A handwritten note on the photocopy indicates "she will think more about this."
Correspondence dated Nov. 23, 2010, the end of DeLeon's first year, from Port Administrative Committee chairman Richard Schiraldi to DeLeon, indicated "the board is really struggling to come up with performance parameters to gauge your bonus next year (as stated in your contract). We are looking for your sincere thought on this issue.''
The memo states, "Due to the current local economy, the limited accomplishments in the areas of job creation / growth, bond fund solutions, etc., and realizing much of the past year was spent learning the local issues and players, we have decided to maintain your current annual salary for the coming year."
Still, the Port board voted to award DeLeon a $2,000 bonus "as a sign of our confidence in you."
The memo goes on to say if no parameters are established, DeLeon still would be eligible for an annual bonus, "but it will be totally discretionary as it was this year."
The following year, Oct. 30, 2011, the board notified DeLeon that the board would not increase her salary but would award her a $5,000 bonus despite not finalizing performance benchmarks.
DeLeon had reported to the board accomplishments including negotiating a move of B.J. Alan company from Youngstown to an unused portion of the Delphi building in Howland, developing a coalition for bond funds, exploring brownfield grants, broadband development and port improvement bonds and investigating possibility of intermodal facilities for area businesses, among other things.
In 2011, the port board set goals for DeLeon that included developing more positive press, becoming more aggressive and higher profile, and communicating more with area communities and the port's advisory committee.
Messages left seeking comment with DeLeon were not returned Wednesday. Previously, DeLeon has referred questions regarding her employment contract to members of the Port Authority board.
Last month, port board member Andres Visnapuu had introduced a resolution to notify DeLeon that the board did not plan to renew the existing contract, but the motion failed 4-3.
Visnapuu has been critical of the contract and has called for compensation tied to performance benchmarks.
Board chairman Scott Lynn, who voted no on Visnapuu's motion, had said he expected the board to renegotiate the contract and to consider a reduction in DeLeon's salary tied to specific incentives where she might be able to earn back some of those funds.
''That's a lot of the feedback I have been getting from the communities' leadership,'' Lynn said.
Two messages left seeking comment from Lynn and from administrative committee chairman Richard Schiraldi this week were not returned.
Polivka on Wednesday also expressed concern that she had never relocated from the Cleveland area to the Youngstown-Warren area.
''You have people paying taxes here, and the person should live here to do that job," Polivka said.
Officials from both Niles and Howland, two of the cities that participated in the coalition to help fund the port's economic arm, said Wednesday they would not do so again.
Niles Council President Robert Marino said, ''There was no feedback on what was going on out there, with our finances, the state of the economy. It's not something I would be in favor of contributing to again.
''We got into this with the best intentions. The city of Niles is committed to regional things,'' Marino said. ''We are all in this together, but there needs to be benchmarks and parameters and measurements.''
Howland Township administrator Darlene St. George on Wednesday was less critical of DeLeon, but still said her township would not contribute to similar regional funding pools in the future for different reasons.
''We were looking out for the good of the community as a whole, and I think that is the right thing to do,'' St. George said. Funding changes in state government, however, have made local budgets much tighter now.
''Local government does not have the money to get involved in that type of economic initiative,'' St. George said.