Director's hiring sparks discord

Four people applied for the human resources job.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The appointment of a new Mahoning County human resources director brought the first rift between the county's new commissioners.
In a 2-to-1 vote Friday, commissioners named Atty. James F. Petraglia, 44, a Poland native who has been working since 2002 as chief executive officer and general counsel for Everkleen Corp., Youngstown, to replace Constance E. Pierce, who left the human resources job Jan. 31.
Petraglia was one of four people who applied for the position. The others were William Carter of Youngstown, executive director of the Youngstown Area Development Corp.; Denetta C. Rozenblad of Youngstown, a member of the trustee board for the Associated Neighborhood Centers; and Karen A. Gran Caldwell of Lordstown, a programmer and network technician in the county's Department of Job and Family Services.
The vote
Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, board president, and David Ludt voted for Petraglia's appointment. Commissioner John McNally IV voted no. Traficanti and McNally took office in January.
McNally said although Petraglia has an extensive background of legal and professional experiences, he did not meet the qualifications the board had set for the job.
The board specified that the next HR director should have a master's degree in public administration, human resources and/or labor relations or related field, a minimum of five years' experience in human resources administration, and experience in public sector employment and labor contract negotiations.
The HR director also serves as the county's equal employment opportunity officer and oversees the central personnel department, negotiates contracts with the county's unions, and makes sure the county's policy manual on hiring, sick leave and job descriptions are followed.
Besides his law degree from Ohio Northern University, Petraglia has a bachelor's degree from Westminster College.
McNally said Petraglia's background primarily is in environmental law, and with the county's facing the possibility of layoffs because of budgetary constraints, he felt Petraglia's experience did not qualify him for the job.
"I would have preferred to go outside the county to get more r & eacute;sum & eacute;s," McNally continued. "We [the board] haven't done enough work to fill this position at this time."
County Auditor George Tablack reminded McNally that Pierce didn't have the extensive experience and qualifications the commissioners asked for when she took the HR job about six years ago. He said she grew into the job and believes Petraglia will, too.
"Until you work with a person, you don't know what skills they possess," Tablack said. "I'm encouraged he possesses the commitment to work with the county and to help us."
He said he would introduce Petraglia to the state's top personnel directors to help get him acclimated to the workings of government in this state.
Petraglia told the board he has 17 years of legal experience, with three-fourths of that time spent in public service. He has served as assistant city solicitor for Pittsburgh and also as a senior deputy attorney general.
"My background is extensive in handling labor negotiations and other social issues. I helped keep the KKK out of Pittsburgh," Petraglia said.
Traficanti, his voice rising, told McNally he didn't understand the logic of his vote. He said if Petraglia didn't work out, he would be gone.
He also said Petraglia, to help the county out, took the job for $10,000 to $11,000 less than what was offered. Petraglia will be paid $60,000. Pierce was paid close to $70,000 a year.
Traficanti and Tablack implied McNally's vote was political, but McNally said it was not, and now that Petraglia was on board, he looked forward to working with him.
Traficanti, however, said he was "sick of fighting with political stuff" which has been going on in the office for about a month.
"Why go out looking across the nation when you have qualified people right here," he said. "I feel comfortable with my decision [to hire Petraglia]."
Seeking change
Petraglia, who had been living in East Palestine and now lives in Poland, said after the meeting he has been reviewing the county's personnel and policy manual "to get a feel of where we stand."
He added that it might be beneficial to the county to have someone come from the outside and look at the situation and get another perspective.
He said one of the reasons he wanted to help the county was he didn't like the direction in which it was going.
"I grew up here. I know the situation these commissioners are facing, and I will do the best job I can with fairness and compassion," Petraglia said.

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