By Ed Runyan
The Geauga Trumbull Solid Waste Management District will re-advertise its job opening for director, which pays $68,000 to $75,000 per year, after Commissioner Dan Polivka raised questions about educational requirements and the committee that picked two finalists.
The district’s board of directors, consisting of the county commissioners from Trumbull Geauga, met this week to iron out the details.
The district, whose headquarters is on Enterprise Drive Northwest, is a government agency that uses landfill fees to educate the public and run environmental programs, such as recycling centers.
After a closed meeting of about an hour, the board appointed Geauga County Commissioner Skip Claypool interim director after Bob Villers retires Dec. 31.
And it set a deadline of Jan. 13 to receive applications for Villers’ job. An attorney for the distrwict, Gregory O’Brien, will notify the 14 people who applied the first time their original application can be used again if they wish.
The first hiring committee consisted of Polivka, Warren businessman Sterling Williams, Villers and Neil Hofstetter of Geauga County, a member of the district’s policy committee. Hofstetter was not able to serve on the committee because of illness, so Fred Bobovnyk, vice chairman and the Weathersfield fiscal officer, took his place. O’Brien, who lives in Geauga County, also participated.
Polivka and Williams, however, did not attend the Nov. 16 interviews with nine finalists, with Polivka later saying he and Williams were never notified of them. Polivka “feels the position should be advertised again and that the hiring process should start over,” according to the minutes of the Thursday meeting/Christmas lunch in Burton.
In an email obtained by The Vindicator, O’Brien said there were multiple attempts, to notify Polivka and Williams. Villers said O’Brien sent a letter to the commissioners office alerting him to the proceedings, and it never came back as undelivered.
Paulette Godfrey, commissioners clerk, said Wednesday, “I never got it. None of the staff saw it.” One of the other clerks receives the mail, opens it and dates it. Godfrey reads it, and a third clerk files it, she said.
Polivka distributed an updated job description for the director’s job at the Dec. 15 meeting. The description no longer required a bachelor’s degree, instead requiring “a bachelor’s degree and/or seven plus years ... of experience in the solid waste industry or environmental industry.”
The district discussed Thursday starting the process again and changing the job description, according to the meeting minutes. The final decision was made in Monday’s closed-door meeting, Villers said.
Polivka on Monday denied he was the person who asked for the change in the necessary credentials, though Villers and Bobovnyk both insist he was.
“Dan is the one who took out the bachelor’s degree requirement,” Villers said, adding he feels a bachelor’s degree is a necessary requirement.
“If you’ve got a college degree, it shows you are able to work toward a degree and achieve it,” Villers said. “To me, it shows you can put in the time.”
Villers has a college education, and so do two internal candidates who applied. Neither of the internal candidates was recommended as one of the two finalists the original committee recommended to the board.
Villers said Monday the two who were recommended are from Mahoning and Portage counties.
Bobovnyk said he’s frustrated that “we went through the whole thing, the whole process” of interviewing nine candidates “and because someone felt they were not notified, and the attorney said they were notified,” the process starts anew, Bobovnyk said.
Bobovnyk said he would have been happy with either of the two finalists. “I thought they were very good candidates,” he said. Neither he nor Villers would identify them.
When asked about the comments from Villers and Bobovynk, Polivka said: “Do you think someone without a college education should be excluded? If someone ran a solid waste district 15 years, do you think they should be excluded?”
Polivka denied that he is promoting a specific candidate who has no college degree, but candidate Terry Nicopolis of Champion was director of Warren’s Environmental Services Department from 1995 to 2003 and has no bachelor’s degree, according to his resume.
Nicopolis also served as chairman of the Trumbull, Ashtabula, Geauga County Solid Waste District Committee as part of his duties with the city of Warren, his resume says.
Polivka said he also felt the selection process was flawed because the committee reviewing applications consisted of the current director, O’Brien and a Trumbull County representative who narrowed the candidates to the final two. Polivka said when Hofstetter was removed, a Geauga County representative should have replaced him. The board makes the final selection.
“Not once did Bob [Villers] call me” about the committee’s work, Polivka said. “I thought maybe he was trying to hand pick his successor.”
Villers said of Polivka’s accusation, “If I were trying to hand pick my successor, why wouldn’t I just recommend the person I wanted to take my place” instead of two people?
The new committee that will review the applications will consist of Claypool and Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri from Geauga County, and Bobovnyk, Polivka, Williams and Villers from Trumbull. O’Brien remains on the committee, and incoming Geauga Commissioner Timothy Lennon also will assist. Polivka said Lennon won’t be a “voting member.”
The district board on Monday approved advertising the position in additional newspapers and a job-search website.
Polivka said it was unfair to Geauga County for Villers to select a Trumbull County resident to replace Hofstetter. Villers said he asked Hofstetter about having the vice chairman, Bobovnyk, replace him, and Hofstetter agreed.
The Trumbull County Commissioners Office provided The Vindicator with a copy of a letter the commissioners office wrote to the solid waste district dated Dec. 2 that says the commissioners office “did not receive any notice of the personnel meetings in regards to the replacement of Mr. Robert Villers. As you are aware, Daniel E. Polivka is chairman of the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste Management District and neither he nor his staff had any notice that the application process commenced.”
It was signed, “Board of Trumbull County Commissioners, Trumbull County, Ohio,” and was signed by Paulette A. Godfrey, commissioners clerk.