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.