Contract called for no severance pay upon resignation
By JON MOFFETT
Vindicator Staff Writer
CANFIELD — A Mill Creek MetroParks commissioner said a severance package that will pay the park district’s former executive director more than $111,000 was given out of courtesy — and not obligation.
Carl Nunziato, one of three commissioners, said the board approved a plan to give David Imbrogno 11 months of his salary and an additional eight weeks of earned and accrued vacation because of his service to the park district.
Imbrogno will be paid $3,475 every other week from Nov. 1 until Oct. 1, 2010.
The board had no contractual obligation to do so: According to the one-year contract signed Jan. 1, Imbrogno would receive four months’ salary if he was terminated without cause.
The contract also states, “If your employment is terminated by the MetroParks for cause, or if you tender your resignation as Executive Director at any time during the term of this agreement, you will not be entitled to the severance payment.”
Imbrogno resigned during an executive session of the park board Aug. 31. Two of the three park commissioners accepted his resignation at the public meeting that night. Board President Virginia Dailey dissented.
Nunziato said even though it was not required to pay Imbrogno, the board agreed on the severance package.
“We gave him the severance package as an accommodation based on his service and as a sign of appreciation,” Nunziato said.
In an e-mail, Imbrogno said his goal was to help the MetroParks move forward and that he had no agenda.
“I also said that, if the vision and plan that emerged was something which I wanted to be a part of, I would stay for as long as it took to make it happen. However, if it was not such a plan, I would set up the MetroParks for whatever direction they decided upon, and then move on ... The direction is not one which matches my goals for the future. This is why I have decided to move on.”
Nunziato said that Imbrogno and the board entered into a “gentlemen’s agreement” to not divulge details of the resignation, though nothing was formalized in the separation agreement. Nunziato said there was no cause for termination, and the agreement was to keep both sides happy and avoid future legal action.
Imbrogno was not under contract with the park district before the January pact, Dailey said. She added that Imbrogno approached the board last fall about signing a contract. The minutes from a December 2008 board meeting state the board agreed to a contract with Imbrogno. In the minutes, Nunziato is credited as saying Imbrogno would be “evaluated on a regular basis,” that his performance would be “carefully scrutinized” and that the contract would not change Imbrogno’s status as an “at-will employee.”
The motion was suggested by Dailey and was passed unanimously by the board, which was then made up of Dailey, Nunziato and Dr. Rick Shale, whose term expired in January. He was replaced by Jay Macejko, a lawyer and Youngstown’s prosecutor, who did not return phone calls seeking comment.
Nunziato said Imbrogno’s decision to resign was not based on an evaluation from the board.
“He didn’t steal money from the park, and he didn’t offend any employees,” Nunziato said of Imbrogno. “It was a difference of opinion in terms of management style. He did nothing wrong.”
Nunziato said informal discussions about Imbrogno’s possible resignation took place before the board meeting, but nothing was finalized. He added that the severance agreement was drafted a day or two before the August meeting by the law firm of Manchester, Bennett, Powers & Ullman, which represents the park district.
Nunziato said the separation was not personal and was strictly a “management-style” issue.
Dailey was quick to show her support for the former director.
“Mill Creek MetroParks was very fortunate to get a man of Dave Imbrogno’s caliber,” she said. “He is highly regarded in his field, he is an excellent long-term planner and a man with great vision.”