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YOUNGSTOWN CIVIC CENTER City accuses board of balking



Published: Wed, November 7, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The two sides now are at odds over the approach to contract negotiations.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Next in the seemingly endless sparring between the city and the civic center board is the topic of bargaining in good faith.

Usually, the city is blamed for slowing the project, but now the civic center board is the accused.

The board wouldn't negotiate during a recent session between the two sides, said Martha Bushey, an attorney with Manchester Bennett Powers & amp; Ullman, which is representing the city.

The meeting she refers to wasn't a true negotiation because the right people and document weren't at the table, said Robert VanSickle, board vice chairman.

Vote on deal: On Oct. 25, the civic center board voted to have its executive committee talk with city council's finance committee about working out a deal. The move came after the board voted against a contract proposed by the city.

The city's proposal gives council final say over the project and makes the arena board an advisory panel.

On Oct. 31, Bushey and another of the firm's lawyers met with VanSickle, the civic center board's chairman and the board's attorney.

City lawyers expected arena board officials to counter the city council proposal and conduct negotiations, Bushey said. Instead, there wasn't any give and take, she said.

"That's a little disturbing," Bushey said.

No contact: Bushey said she waited to be called into a closed-door arena board meeting the next day, thinking negotiations with the board might occur. She was never called, however, and she hasn't had any contact with the board since.

VanSickle was there for half the Oct. 31 meeting and said he left because there was no point.

Earlier this year, the board negotiated a deal with city Law Director Robert Bush Jr. that seemed generally acceptable to both sides, VanSickle said.

Yet, the city proposal that council sent which included the advisory role was far different, he said. That's why the arena board voted to talk directly with council, he said.

Talking with new lawyers about a radically different document on Oct. 31 wasn't negotiation, VanSickle said.

"That's not negotiating in good faith," he said. "What we really need is a face-to-face meeting with city council and their representatives."

Miscommunication: There was a miscommunication on what was expected, said board Chairman Leonard Schiavone, and he agreed that the session wasn't productive.

The board still awaits a meeting that includes council members, he said.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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