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YOUNGSTOWN CIVIC CENTER Arena board votes to dissolve



Published: Fri, February 15, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The board capped 13 months of relations with the city by quietly dissolving itself.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Rev. Edward P. Noga said a short prayer that sought wisdom, guidance, support and blessings for those in charge of building up the community.

And then, 10 minutes later, it was all over -- especially the shouting.

Civic-center board members capped 13 months of mostly rancorous relations with the city Thursday by quietly dissolving the development corporation that legally made them a group.

Board members reiterated their feeling that the city has a moral and legal obligation to pay the three-month salary and benefit severance due their office manager, Kim Henshaw.

The only board employee, Henshaw expressed concern the city wouldn't pay the severance, but wouldn't elaborate. The board also talked about an outstanding $75,000 bill from its Cleveland law firm, which was referred to the city for payment a month ago.

Listed reasons: Then, Leonard Schiavone, who led the board its first year, quickly and quietly referenced the reasons members decided on a mass resignation last week. Reasoning centered on a lack of communication and cooperation with city government.

"There is no purpose for this corporation," he said. "The advisory nature of us would be in name only."

Schiavone made the motion to dissolve the board and Father Noga added a second.

Then came the unanimous vote among the 12 remaining members who had resigned as of today. One on the 13-member board resigned last month.

Afterward, Chairman Robert VanSickle thanked members for their effort and putting up with near constant controversy. "It just wasn't going to happen," he said.

He said he hoped the proposed downtown civic-center project would happen and come to a fruitful conclusion. Then, VanSickle wryly added, "but probably not in our lifetime."

Looking back: There was little other talk about what has gone on since Jan. 19, 2001, the day the group first met in the basement of City Centre One. That was four months after council created the board at U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s behest.

That January day, several city council members said they would pick the project site but otherwise, the arena board was on its own.

Since then, council changed its mind and decided the city needed full decision-making authority. A power struggle ensued.

Council insisted on reducing the board to advisors. The board resisted, but, when faced with an ultimatum in December, accepted. Relations didn't improve, however, and the board pulled the plug on itself before council did.

Afterward, Schiavone reflected on the past year. The private and nonprofit boards he serves on always have issues of power and politics, but not like this, he said, adding, "They were never so overt."

Added to problems: Lack of clarity in the players and their motives in the project contributed to the problems, Schiavone said.

"We weren't dealing with the city. We were dealing with multiple entities in the city that had goals and motivations that weren't clear," he said. "They weren't clear throughout the process."

The turning point in the board's demise came in October, he said, after it negotiated a contract with the city law director giving members decision-making authority. City council countered with an outside lawyer and a contract proposal relegating the board to advisers.

"At that point ... what eventually came about was inevitable, I guess," Schiavone said. He didn't expect the board to accept the advisory contract in December, but it did.

Schiavone said he isn't angry because he understands the city's control issues. Instead, he described himself as frustrated. He wishes the city wouldn't have first assigned the board full oversight duties, then changed course.




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