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Marsico defends, explains county raises

Published: Wed, February 9, 2011 @ 12:10 a.m.


Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico

By Peter H. Milliken



Mahoning County Engineer Richard Marsico defended $70,242 in salary increases to his staff as county commissioners grilled him during a staff meeting Tuesday.

He said the increases came in two forms:

$34,486 in pay increases he gave, effective Jan. 17, to five professional engineers on his staff.

$35,755 that was converted Jan. 1 from annual allowances for such items as clothing, boots and cellular phones, into each of 23 non-union employees’ hourly compensation.

Marsico said his professional staff has taken on additional duties that justify a reward.

“Everybody on the professional staff is doing more and has more responsibilities, and that’s why I gave raises to the professional staff,” Marsico told county commissioners, noting the engineers now do road construction management, which previously was done by a consulting firm.

Furthermore, the allowances for the non-union employees — though they were processed as salary increases — do not constitute a pay increase, Marilyn Kenner, chief deputy engineer said.

Kenner said the allowances — $500 for clothing, $150 for boots and $350 for cellular phones — were rolled into the hourly pay for these employees for two reasons.

First, she said her office intends to negotiate with the Teamsters’ union, which represents drivers and mechanics, to replace those allowances with county-issued uniforms and boots.

Second, she said her office wanted to keep non-union employees’ total compensation unchanged after they had received no pay raises for two years and taken monthly unpaid furlough days between January and October 2010.

However, the previous allowances were given to the employees to spend at will, and employees were not required to get receipts for purchases of boots, clothing and cellular phone plans to document how the money was spent to be reimbursed, Marsico said.

“They received the cash and what they did with it was their business,” he said.

Some of those getting the boot and clothing allowance were clerical workers who never left the office, Marsico acknowledged.

The explanations came as commissioners questioned the timing of the increases.

“I just question the wisdom of doing this at this most critical time in our economy,” County Commissioner Anthony T. Traficanti said of the raises. “I wish you wouldn’t have done it,” he added.

“I can assure you the public doesn’t see it the way you’re explaining it,” Traficanti told Marsico and Kenner.

“That wasn’t good timing on this,” said Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti.

But Marsico noted the five professional engineers received increases between $3.09 and $4.26 per hour.

Those engineers and their current annual salaries are: Marilyn Kenner, chief deputy engineer, $95,921; Michael Stipetich, construction design engineer, $81,308; Robert Donham, traffic engineer, $79,808; Timothy Burkert, construction design engineer, $81,843; and Randall Partika, bridge engineer, $82,165.

Kenner said Marsico decided to compensate his engineers at rates comparable to those of the Ohio Department of Transportation.

Those five engineers were the only staff to get raises, Marsico said.

Had the raises not been granted, the $34,486 would not have been sufficient to cover the annual cost of recalling even one additional laid-off union member, Marsico said.

To enable it to resume snow and ice removal, the engineer’s office recalled in late November five truck drivers and a mechanic, who were among 16 employees it had laid off in 2010.

When his office suffered a $1.5 million funding loss due to declining gasoline tax and license plate revenues, it cut costs by denying raises to non-union staff and imposing the furlough days on them, Marsico said.

Meanwhile, the union members have continued to receive 3 percent annual pay raises for the last three years, he added.

Union members were laid off because they wouldn’t take concessions, Kenner said.

Traficanti asked Marsico whether any of the engineer’s office employees would likely have quit their jobs if their allowances had simply been canceled and not made part of their hourly compensation.

“It’s hard to say,” Marsico replied.

“Some might have,” Kenner said.

The commissioners went into executive session to discuss forthcoming negotiations, which begin Feb. 22 with the Teamsters, whose contract expires April 30. The commissioners approve all county labor contracts.

The commissioners are scheduled to meet with County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains at 1 p.m. Thursday to discuss raises he granted to his assistant prosecutors on Jan. 31.

Unlike the engineer’s office, which is funded entirely by gasoline tax, license plate fees and fines, the prosecutor’s office is funded from the county’s general fund, over which the commissioners have control. The prosecutor’s office has no union.


1UnionForever(1470 comments)posted 4 years ago

Well commissioners are you going to do something about these raises or not? Talk is cheap. The taxpayers of Mahoning County expect action on this issue. Repeal the raises or cut their budgets.

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2author50(1121 comments)posted 4 years ago

They will do nothing but whine and bellyache. They need the support of the county employees to win re-election. remember petitions are due December, 2011 for the 2012 primary.

When Dick Marsico talks I hear Kenner's voice.

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3unhappyvoter1(87 comments)posted 4 years ago

lets get real. no raises. they make decent money for this area. don't like then leave. i bet they stay. there are many county employees laid off. no one helps or cares about them anymore, even though some had 10 to 25 years in the county. just fed up with all the bull.

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4Silence_Dogood(1414 comments)posted 4 years ago

They can go back and work for DeBartolo, for half what they make for the County.This pay raise is a flat out joke. Marsico should have retired years ago, this double dipper needs to go next election and if he gets reelected, well then it is shame on the voters of the Mahoning Vally.

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5typical(9 comments)posted 4 years ago

What is wrong with some people? Why don't you think they deserve a raise? Yes, they make decent money for working in the Valley but they've worked hard for their money...who are you to begrudge at least a cost of living raise? The economy is picking up and I'm sick of County Commissioners using it as an excuse to not give people raises they deserve!

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6BridgeGuy37(23 comments)posted 4 years ago

To compare these folks with the ODOT is ludacris. The Engineers working for ODOT already perform road construction management on projects as part of their normal job description (in addition to many other responsibilities.) And have done so without raises.

First, the two pay scales are not comparable. It may appear so on the surface, but what Mr. Marsico fails to inform the public is that his managers pay no or a very little part of their pension contribution. ODOT employees are contributing well over 11% of their base salary to the pension. I'm not saying that ODOT isn't a paradise, but the County Engineer is trying a smoke and mirrors tactic. So if you compare the two salaries at $95k one working for the County Engineer's Office, and one for ODOT, you may increase the take home pay of a County Engineer by 10% over that of an ODOT Engineer. In laymans terms that's $9500 per year or $185 per week more in cash that the County Engineer's staff realize (and subsequently burden the county budget by that much more.) Pretty handsome because after 30 years they walk away with the SAME pension! The only difference is that Mahoning County makes the contribution with your tax dollars instead of having the employees contribute from their base salary. Also on the topic of contributions, the County Engineer's employees are only required to contribute a VERY SMALL portion of their health coverage. Employees with ODOT are contributing almost 10 times as much as the County Employees are towards health care.

In addition, the County Engineers management staff are eligible to use their county vehicles to commute to and from home and work. This is not the case with ODOT. These folks are required to report to their working locations by means of their own transportation, and are only allowed to use state vehicles for state business, as it should be. The compensation packages are worlds apart "in-comparison," contrary to what Mr. Marsico has stated.

On another note, Mrs. Kenner forgot to mention in an earlier quote that she is at "retirement age" or 30 years in the OPERS system. Why doesn't she retire? A good explanation of OPERS is the answer. The OPERS pension payment is based on an average of the employees 3 highest earning years. Employees are eligible to retire with a pension benefit at 30 years. However, if the employee continues to work after retirement age, each year the retirement payment will increase by nearly 2% to a maximum somewhere around 38 years. Now doesn't this come at a great time... Mr. Marsico is up for re-election. If he is re-elected, he will most likely keep his current management staffers. This will in-turn give Mrs. Kenner additional years on her newly inflated salary to make her "three highest" average increase by $10k. It is a really nice domino effect, isn't it? Political manuvering at its finest.

Please remember this information when there's more than one choice for County Engineer.

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7palbubba(673 comments)posted 4 years ago

Comment by typical is certainly typical. Typical of elected officials spitting in the face of taxpayers. This talk of retention of employees is just ludicrous, they are not going anywhere. The job market is non existent and they already have a job that many would love to have. The talk about them now doing more means that for years the work they should have been doing was being done by others at additional cost to the county. Wake up voters and get these bums off the public dole, along with the commissioners who do nothing about it. The time for talk is over, it is time for action.

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8badeepster(119 comments)posted 4 years ago

palbubba--are you just jealous that you didn't go into this line of work? It's hilarious that nobody talked about any of these jobs for years, and now all of a sudden these people are public enemy # 1. Where is it written that if some people have wages frozen or lost jobs, that everyone else has to be miserable as well. Everybody chooses their lot in life. If these people truly earned the raises and there is no extra money being used for them, let it be. And stop being jealous.

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9BridgeGuy37(23 comments)posted 4 years ago

badeepster - I couldn't agree with the substance of your conversation more. We all do chose our path in live.

However, when situations like this arise, and they directly affect me, I must take issue. I am not jealous, I make my own in my own way. And I am in this line of work so I can comment with experience and predjudice.

If raises were deserved, then they should given. In this case the pay is not commensurate of the duties. And the next time you hear Mr. Marsico complain of his budget, you will hear the words "Tax Increase." Which will directly affect your pocket. At that point Mrs. Kenner and her clan will be laughing all the way to the bank. I urge you to drive on many of the county roads. Money on managers is money not well spent. The priorities of this particular department are clearly not in the right order.

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10mrblue(1111 comments)posted 4 years ago

I don't believe that the commissioners are going to do a thing. They are just putting on a show. So with all the raises being given out----on dry days are the pot holes going to be filled? If you drive a car, you know that pot holes are everywhere. I believe that Marsico is full of hot air and should have retired years ago.

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11ValleyNative(174 comments)posted 4 years ago

The people in this area love to complain. Makes me try to mentally distance myself as much as possible. And then head to PA when I can. What a depressing Valley. I will probly take a break now from this website. So full of idiots that I would only otherwise encounter as they cut me off on 224.

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12Millie(192 comments)posted 4 years ago

I am dizzy from the spinning on this one!

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13SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 4 years ago

The question that has not been answered or avoided is "Why is Mahoning County paying their contribution into PERS?" this is a fair question and I can't wait for the answer from "Dumb and Dumber" (Marsico & Kenner)

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14spinman(70 comments)posted 4 years ago

The picking up of both sides of PERs and STRs is a common practice here in the valley. Do you people realize that most all of the loacal school systems in Mahoning County pay almost 15% (both sides) into STRS. When you ask the voter about this..he or she has no clue what you are talking about. Please educate yourselves before you vote on another tax increase.

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15BridgeGuy37(23 comments)posted 4 years ago

SickofJimbo- spinman is correct. This has been a question of mine for quite some time also. The 100 % employer contributions into the State pension system seems to be a Mahoning thing. If they were to actually look at the State level model of pension contribution, Mahoning County could be saving large sums of money albeit at the "expense" of the employees....

All residents should be looking further into this for themselves and garnering an education before voting on these ridiculous tax increases that should not be. The smart person lives within his or her means.

As I stated in my earlier post, the county could save as much as $9500 per year on just 1 employee simply for pension.... Add a larger contribution to health care and take that sum over the entire County employment, and the red ink may not be dripping by the barrell-full.

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16ComeOnMan(17 comments)posted 4 years ago

These employees sit around and look at each all day and never work more than 40 hrs a week even when they work.

If they had to work at private firms they wouldn't be able to do the work. They'd would get paid 60% of that salary and have deadlines and budgets to meet. They would have to work extra hours for free and if they didn't keep up get let go.

That is why all the county plans are done by consulting firms.

We work for whatever we can get and pay the taxes when buying gas for their easy jobs and they know it.

If it weren't the case they'd be working for private consultants but that would be too hard.

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17dhtj(32 comments)posted 4 years ago

according to the article, Kenner says that union members were laid off because they didn't take concessions. Let's make the 5 engineers who are getting pay raises to take concessions or lay them off too. Quit talking out of both sides of your mouth. I say vote everyone in office out and vote no for any additional or continuing taxes............

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18SickofJimbo(140 comments)posted 4 years ago

Marilynn Kenner does not even meet the minimum qualifications,set by the State of Ohio, to be or run for County Engineer. Maybe this is the reason she grew the department and added qualified engineers to sit around and look at each other all day. Don't stand by the door at 4:00 pm. You'll get trampled over. Oh I bet they even have a paid lunch.

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19nsoger(7 comments)posted 4 years ago

Lets not forget the pay cuts Odot employees have taken over the last 2 years. 10 mandatory furlough days per year cost the average state employee over $3000 per year. I bet they would jump for joy for anything that wasn't a pay cut.

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20BridgeGuy37(23 comments)posted 4 years ago

Just be patient... I'm sure the next election cycle for County Engineer will be really interesting. Especially for the former "shoo-in" Marsico.

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