By Ed Runyan
The chairman of the Western Reserve Port Authority says he’s prepared to talk to his fellow board members today about the possible hiring of John Moliterno as economic-development director.
Chairman Ron Klingle said the board will consider hiring Moliterno on a four-month basis or longer to replace Rose Ann DeLeon, who worked in that position until January, when she went on disability leave.
Moliterno was chairman of the port authority and president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, both in the 1990s, and is a current and former member of Girard City Council and current owner of a Youngstown printing company.
Moliterno also is one of 11 people under consideration for the vacancy as a Trumbull County commissioner. The Trumbull County Democratic Party Central Committee will fill the vacancy at a meeting Saturday morning.
Meanwhile, Mahoning County commissioners are expressing concern — not over Molitern’s qualifications but over the selection process, Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said Tuesday.
“Was there a search committee? Was it done fairly and properly?” he said.
Traficanti and fellow commissioners Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler are “contemplating” the reduction of Mahoning County’s hotel-motel taxes to the port authority depending on what happens today, Traficanti said.
Martin Loney, one of Mahoning County’s three representatives on the port authority board, advised commissioners that Klingle did not consult with him or the two other Mahoning representatives on the possible hire, Traficanti said.
Klingle also didn’t consult with the Mahoning County commissioners, Traficanti said.
Klingle, meanwhile, said he did email the other port authority members and has been in contact with Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka.
In fact, Polivka was the person who recommended Moliterno for the position, after another possible candidate declined, Klingle said.
When Moliterno’s name came up, Klingle said he wondered why he didn’t think of Moliterno first. “I’ve known John 20 years,” Klingle said. “He’s incredibly smart and a class act,” Klingle said.
Klingle talked with Moliterno a couple of times and felt today was the time to talk with the other port authority members about it, he said.
Klingle said some people would like to see a national search conducted for the position, as was done when DeLeon was hired in 2009 at a salary of $155,000 per year, but Klingle said he feels the port authority needs “someone in there on a short-time basis who understands the politics of the Mahoning Valley.”
Under Moliterno, the port authority would work more closely with the chamber, with the chamber being the lead agency in making contact with potential business interests and the port authority providing the incentives they need, Klingle said.
“The new director is going to be pro-business,” Klingle said. “He will have to be able to let the chamber take the lead.”
Traficanti, who said he’ll be at today’s port-authority meeting, explained that the Mahoning County commissioners do not want to “cripple” the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, which the port authority runs, so it’s not threatening to remove all of the Mahoning County bed-tax money.
But it could vote as early as Thursday to remove part of it, Traficanti said. The part that would be removed is the 1.5 percent the commissioners approved in August 2012. That increase raised an additional $500,000 annually for the port authority.
Klingle admits he hasn’t talked to the Mahoning County commissioners about hiring Moliterno, but that’s because the commissioners have not been receptive to talking.
“We have no problem sitting down with the Mahoning County commissioners to discuss it. All they have to do is accept our offers,” he said.
Trumbull County Commissioner Frank Fuda said he thinks it’s premature for Mahoning County’s commissioners to threaten reduction of port-authority funds without having more information.
“I don’t see a major problem,” Fuda said of what Klingle has done so far.
Traficanti said he’s not sure the port authority can legally vote on anything today, because fewer than five members will attend. Loney will be absent, and the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office says five are needed to have a meeting, Traficanti said.
Atty. Dan Keating, the port authority’s legal counsel, however, said Tuesday a meeting can take place if at least three members attend because that would a majority of the current five-member board. The commissioners from both counties have refused to fill three vacancies on the board because of infighting they have witnessed in recent months.