By a 4-3 vote, city council agreed to hire a first deputy clerk, more than three months after she started the job.
Luanne Knox began working for city council Jan. 31 as a clerk with an annual salary of $40,958. But it wasn’t until Wednesday that council took a public vote to hire her, retroactive to Jan. 31.
Council members who voted in favor of the hiring said the delay was caused by mixed signals sent by the city law department.
Law Director Iris Torres Guglucello initially told council in late December that it wasn’t necessary to have a formal vote on the floor of council to hire a clerk, according to an email recently provided to The Vindicator by the law department.
But in late March, Guglucello wrote members of city council that the legislative body needed to take a public vote, said Councilmen Jamael Tito Brown, D-3rd, and DeMaine Kitchen, D-2nd, who voted to hire Knox.
Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, and Councilman John R. Swierz, D-7th, also voted in favor of the hire.
“We did it to pacify our law director,” Kitchen said of the vote.
The law department refused the newspaper’s request for correspondence between the department and city council about the legality of hiring Knox without a public vote.
Dan T. Pribich, the city’s deputy law director, said the letters weren’t public records because of “attorney-client privilege.”
Brown said the newspaper’s request for records related to the clerk appointment wasn’t the reason city council voted in public.
Though the city doesn’t have a lot of money, hiring a third clerk for council is needed to keep the office running efficiently, Brown said.
Councilman Mike Ray, D-4th, disagrees.
“We’re asking everyone to do more with less, and we should lead by example,” he said.
Ray, along with Councilman Paul Drennen, D-5th, and Councilwoman Janet Tarpley, D-6th, voted against the hire.
Before she was hired by city council, Knox worked as district administrator for the Western Southern Financial Group in Austintown for 16 years.
Kitchen also works for the company at its Austintown office.
While they worked together, Kitchen said Knox responded to an ad about the job, and he had nothing to do with her applying for the job.
“I think she’s a good hire,” he said.
Before Knox was hired, the city council office had a temporary part-time clerk in addition to Clerk Valencia Marrow, who makes $67,861.82 in annual base salary, and Terri Dawson, first assistant clerk, who earns $51,580.36 in annual base salary.