By Jeanne Starmack
Today is supposed to be payday for city employees, but the mayor has blocked the signing of paychecks by the city’s finance director, whom he suspended.
It’s unclear when employees will get paid. Mayor George Krinos said Thursday they can be paid tonight if city council agrees to appoint who he wants as finance director at a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. at the city building.
He wants to appoint Stephen O’Dea, who was the city’s finance director in the 1980s and early 1990s.
The Vindicator asked city Administrator Lew Jackson on Thursday how O’Dea could sign checks Friday if his signature isn’t yet cleared by the city’s bank.
Jackson acknowledged that could be a problem. “I don’t look for anything to happen before Monday,” he said.
But a short time later, Krinos told The Vindicator that he has “made arrangements with the bank” that if O’Dea is approved, he will have the ability to sign checks. He said the checks will be signed after the special meeting. “It’ll be handled internally.”
If council doesn’t approve the appointment of O’Dea, it isn’t clear what steps will be taken to ensure employees are paid. Council has resisted appointing a new finance director, supporting Miles through repeated efforts by Krinos to oust him.
Krinos has maintained that he has the right to appoint whomever he wants as finance director, and he doesn’t want to work with Miles.
Council has the final say over the appointment, according to the city’s charter.
Council woman Juanita Rich, who is acting president, said she doesn’t believe O’Dea is qualified. “I don’t believe he’s up to date with all the processes,” she said. “Things have changed since the ’80s.”
She said she doesn’t know what will happen with the checks if there is a stalemate. “He [Krinos] needs to come to his senses and do the right thing.”
Krinos put Miles on unpaid leave after an April 7 council meeting got out of control, and police saw Miles arguing with O’Dea. He was restrained by an officer then left the meeting room, but the situation didn’t end there.
Police pursued charges against Miles, which Law Director Mark Kolmacic decided by Tuesday he would not authorize.
Kolmacic also told Krinos that his April 8 appointment of O’Dea as assistant finance director was void because Krinos didn’t consult with council before making the appointment.
Even if O’Dea could be an assistant, Krinos acknowledged at a council caucus meeting Wednesday, only a finance director can sign the checks.
Kolmacic recommended that Krinos and council appoint a finance director at the caucus meeting, but that did not happen.
“I’m not going to go through this process this evening,” Krinos said, adding that they could call a special meeting Friday and not miss payday.
But council wasn’t sure there was time to advertise for a special meeting. Members took a recess and called Kolmacic, who said there is nothing illegal about Miles’ signing checks. He agreed to do so on his own time, and the matter appeared to be settled.
But Thursday morning, Krinos said he’d only agreed to allow Miles to sign the checks if that didn’t interfere with Miles’ suspension.
He said he contacted an attorney after the meeting, which he paid for himself, and that attorney told him that a suspended employee should not perform any of his daily activities. Krinos would not tell The Vindicator the name of his attorney, saying that he is from Columbus and his legal expertise is in “municipalities.”
Jackson said employees were told about the situation at a meeting Thursday morning.
Rich said she thought everyone was in agreement to let Miles sign the checks, and it was “a resolution to a bad situation.”
“When I heard this today, I thought, ‘you’ve got to be kidding,’” she said.