Even though city council has hired the Federal Plaza/downtown director for decades, it appears it may not have the authority to do so.
“I’m researching the history of both the creation of the position and the past hiring practices,” said Law Director Martin Hume. “There are charter provisions and ordinances that are inconsistent” with council’s right to hire someone for that position.
The issue comes as city council approved legislation Wednesday to pay $50,000 to Youngstown’s insurance company to resolve a complaint filed by Lyndsey Hughes, who was sexually harassed on the job.
Hughes is getting $72,000 and her attorneys are receiving $48,000 as part of a settlement agreement that also includes her not keeping her job as downtown director of events, special projects and marketing.
A Dec. 6, 2013, report conducted on behalf of the city concluded that DeMaine Kitchen, a former chief of staff/secretary to former Mayor Charles Sammarone and also a former city councilman, sexually harassed Hughes.
Hughes, hired in 2008, was making $41,125 a year in salary. Her last day as downtown director was May 21, according to the agreement obtained by The Vindicator before council’s vote Wednesday.
Council recently met twice in executive session to discuss replacing Hughes without coming to an agreement.
Also, Mayor John A. McNally said the position would work better under his authority than council’s because it’s difficult for a person to answer to seven bosses instead of one.
McNally said the position would work better under his authority than council’s because it’s difficult for a person to answer to seven bosses instead of one.
Hume hasn’t given a legal opinion on who can hire Hughes’ replacement.
But in response to questions from The Vindicator on Thursday, Hume said there’s a 1975 city council ordinance that calls for the creation of a Federal Plaza commission, including some department heads as well as appointments from city council and the mayor, to decide who is selected for the position.
Also, Hume pointed to the city charter, which gives council the authority only to hire a city clerk and other assistant clerks of council as necessary.
But Councilwoman Annie Gillam, D-1st, whose ward includes downtown, thinks she should determine the hiring.
Read more about the controversy in Friday's Vindicator or on Vindy.com.