Joyce Kale-Pesta, Mahoning County Board of Elections director, offered to resign as a result of fallout from an aborted 3 percent raise for department employees.
Board Chairman Mark Munroe and Vice Chairman David Betras rejected the resignation offer Thursday by Kale- Pesta, a Democrat.
“I reminded Joyce that mistakes were made, the board should have done better, but she’s been a good director and she shouldn’t resign over a bad mistake and the subsequent news about it,” said Munroe, who also is the county Republican Party chairman.
“We made a mistake, we corrected it and we’re moving on,” said Betras, who also is the county Democratic Party chairman. “Her offer to resign and fall on her sword shows she’s a great public servant. She’s an excellent director. There’s not many people who would do what she offered.”
The board voted 4-0 Tuesday to give 3 percent base-pay raises to its 12 employees.
But after conflicting statements in response to questions raised by The Vindicator about the raises, Munroe and Betras said the pay increases were on hold and the board would rescind them at its next meeting.
Kale-Pesta gave the board a recommendation for the pay increases just before that meeting and provided a printout of the salaries of elections directors and deputy directors in other counties that was from 2012 and inaccurate.
She also didn’t do herself any favors when she said when the salary increases were put on hold: “It’s not a raise; it’s a cost-of-living increase. Why shouldn’t I ask for a little 3 percent? I didn’t think it was out of line. I don’t see a 3 percent as a raise. I consider 10 percent a raise. If the board wants to renege on it, it’s their choice. It’s fine with me. I’m fine with my salary.”
Also, county commissioners said they didn’t agree to salary increases for elections board employees — particularly as the county planned to put a new 0.25 percent income tax and make a 0.5 percent existing tax continuous. Kale-Pesta said it was discussed during the board’s budget hearing.
On Thursday, the commissioners agreed not to put the new tax on the May ballot with an eye toward placing it in front of voters in November.
“I offered to resign if the board wants me to do that,” Kale-Pesta said. “If this caused an embarrassment, I apologize. I would never do anything to hurt them or jeopardize the county. It’s unfortunate it happened.”
Kale-Pesta, who’s worked for the board for 26 years, including the last two as director, said she plans to review her status with the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System to see what she would receive financially if she retired.
Kale-Pesta and Deputy Director Thomas McCabe are being paid $73,143. Their new annual salaries were to be $75,337 with the raises.
Election employees received 3 percent base-pay salary increases Dec. 1, 2012.
On Jan. 14, 2013, they received an 11.2 percent raise to offset the board’s agreeing the county would no longer pay the workers’ 10 percent portion of their state retirement contribution. The extra 1.2 percent was to offset the workers’ higher tax rate they would pay for making more money.