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‘Stay focused,’ Belinky tells park board

Published: Sat, October 31, 2009 @ 12:07 a.m.

By Jon Moffett

The park commissioners said the severance agreement sought to avoid litigation with the former executive director.

YOUNGSTOWN — A judge has told Mill Creek Park commissioners to get it together, or he’ll find replacements for them.

Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Belinky is the appointing authority for the park district and summoned the three commissioners to a Friday morning “informational session” in his chambers.

The commissioners have a common goal and will work toward it, said Virginia Dailey, the board president.

Dailey said the board would continue to work toward cohesiveness but would not elaborate. Neither of the other two commissioners, Carl Nunziato and city Prosecutor Jay Macejko, nor Judge Belinky offered to comment after the session.

A separate statement released through the court Friday morning said Judge Belinky “urged the commissioners to work to move past the controversy of the resignation of David Imbrogno, the former executive director of the MetroParks, to speak as a united board and stay focused on their collective responsibilities in operating and maintaining the park.”

It also said Judge Belinky had the authority to remove the commissioners, and he “will not hesitate to do so if it will ensure the future of the MetroParks.”

The commissioners have remained fairly quiet on the subject of Imbrogno’s resignation. The former executive director was given a severance package by the park board, which will pay him for eight weeks of vacation time and $3,475 every other week from November until next October.

Later Friday, the MetroParks released a joint statement that sheds some light on the decision to pay such an amount and address public outcry.

“The Park is many things to many people ... But, there is also a business side to its operation,” the board’s statement said. “And, that business side sometimes calls for difficult decisions that have unpopular aspects. This is one such situation, and the decision to expend public funds was not taken lightly. Additionally, the concerns that have since been expressed have not been ignored by this board.”

A stipulation in Imbrogno’s contract said the board was not contractually obligated to pay him if he resigned. But Nunziato had said the severance package was given as a courtesy for his service to the park district.

The new statement seems to contradict Nunziato’s remarks. It says: “After careful consideration of the various costs associated with protracted litigation and any potential adverse judgments, the board decided to settle with Mr. Imbrogno by way of an additional amount that would dispose of any actual or potential claims, avoid potential litigation and lead to Mr. Imbrogno’s immediate departure from service with the park.”

Tensions on the board have mounted in recent weeks stemming from two key issues: Imbrogno’s resignation and the expansion of the park board.

The commissioners voted 2-1 in favor of expanding the board from its current three members to five effective Jan. 1. Dailey provided the dissenting vote and voiced her concerns at an Oct. 19 meeting.

According to the court statement, “Judge Belinky praised the board of commissioners for deciding to expand the park board by adding two additional members,” which will “allow areas of the county that traditionally have not been represented on the board [such as smaller communities] to have a voice in park operations.”

One of the new commissioners will serve a one-year term and the other a two-year term.

In a previous telephone conversation, Judge Belinky said he wanted to meet with the commissioners anyway, but the process was hastened due to Nunziato’s vacationing for much of November.



1vinglass(283 comments)posted 6 years ago

What grounds would the former director have for litigation. His contract seemed rather straightforward to me. If the commissioners were so pleased with him, why were they so anxious to get rid of him??

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2lbodnar1950(5 comments)posted 6 years ago

Could someone just tell me what they spend 14 million dollors on ? Maybe this has something to do with this story. Ya think ?

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3wastepro(47 comments)posted 6 years ago

Time to replace the entire Board. How effect a Board Member can you be when you are gone for a month at a time.

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4olepops45(39 comments)posted 6 years ago

If there was talk of the cost of impending litigation, I suppose that there are other factors involved that the public is unaware of. Some kind of power play maybe?

What concerns me more is the cost of adding two more bosses, (for areas of the county that traditionally have not been represented on the board). Gee, this isn’t what they envisioned when Mill Creek became Metro parks. I’m sure Belinky and the board are rolling in bucks and we can’t have that. They may not have heard about a simple thing like a prudent reserve of funds. My depression era parents taught me that complicated theory when I was a child.

Doe’s this sound like a more probable future:

Summer of 2010 - The Metro parks are having budget shortfalls, employee's hours will be cutback and some regular services will be curtailed unless a 1/2 mil. levy is passed in the next election.

Business as usual, at least in the government!

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5Tugboat(759 comments)posted 6 years ago

Are they "to get it together" or "stay focused?" Big difference. This is what happens when you vote to give an entity revenue for 15 years instead of renewing every 5. Another hurdle for the sales tax promoters to deal with.

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6Grace(8 comments)posted 6 years ago

The damage to the park's status in our community is still increasing. What does Judge Belinky have to watch happen before he gets this. NOW is the time to replace the entire board. They are trying to cover their butts not protect our incredible park system. Political appointments are tricky at best. The park commissioners should be elected!

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7apollo(1227 comments)posted 6 years ago

Someone needs to check the water in Meander. This area is run by the most inept and corrupt people possible!

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8polhack(129 comments)posted 6 years ago

His honor may be focused on stacking the board with three more of his own appointees to join Macejko and Nunziato, both of them practicing attorneys. Could that be a conflict of interest if they appear in Probate Court?
Maybe the Vindy could help inform the public why Imbrogno was asked to resign, why that request could lead Nunziato to the conclusion that there could be litigation as a result and why two of three commissioners appointed by Belinky, feel entitled to spend our money to forego any threat of litigation. It might also be useful to take note, now, of what companies hold which contracts for various park services. As Belinky can only appoint and fire Board members, odds are good that a board full of hand picked "yes men" will be needed for his "transparent" administration to gain sharper focus on controlling the park.

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