VIENNA - After more bickering and another brief stalemate, members of the Western Reserve Port Authority on Thursday voted 5-3 to offer the port executive director an abbreviated contract at a greatly reduced salary.
Rose Ann DeLeon, who has served in the post for three years, would have to agree to the deal, but she did not attend Thursday's special meeting and did not return a phone call seeking comment on the issue.
DeLeon, who has been paid $155,000 a year until now, has come under fire by some board members and elected officials who believe she has not lived up to their expectations. Others have argued that she has done a good job in a poor economic climate and should see her contract renewed, but at a reduced salary.
After much debate and a deadlocked vote for the third consecutive meeting, members finally agreed on a new proposal to cut her salary to $47,500 for a six-month period, but with incentives that would allow DeLeon opportunities to earn back most of the salary she is losing.
The motion was offered jointly by board members Scott Lewis and Patrick Pellin, ironically, two members who had consistently been on opposite sides of the issue.
''My desire is to keep Rose Ann on for one more year,'' Lewis said in proposing a motion that would have extended the contract for a year at $95,000 plus incentives allowing her to make up to $150,000.
After much debate, Pellin suggested a compromise to renew DeLeon for six months with an option to renew for a second six months.
''Everybody keeps saying I want to get rid of her. I have never said that, but I don't want to be on the hook to the taxpayers for another $60,000,'' Pellin said.
After an initial vote that again ended 4-4, board member Richard Musick sounded off, saying he believed taxpayers should be upset.
''We can't vote to nonrenew her contract. We can't vote to extend it,'' he said.
Musick had consistently voted to nonrenew DeLeon, saying Thursday he wanted some measurable performance. In the end, he voted yes to maintain her for six more months.
Following the meeting, Trumbull Commissioner Dan Polivka and Mahoning Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, who were in attendance, said they were relieved that a compromise had been reached. Both seemed satisfied with the decision.
Despite passage, the matter still may not be resolved. Board member Don Hanni III, who has consistently called for termination of DeLeon's contract, disputed an opinion by the board's attorney Dan Keating about board action during a special meeting under Ohio open meetings laws. Following the meeting, Hanni said he would legally challenge Keating's opinion and the validity of the board's vote.
Hanni maintained the only vote that legally could be taken was one calling for a termination to her contract and nothing more, as was listed on a special meeting notice.
Keating said the board could take further action because it was on the same topic.
Supporting the motion was Lewis, Pellin, Musick, Andres Visnapuu and Scott Lynn. Voting no were Hanni, James Floyd and Richard Schiraldi.