Mahoning CSB may revisit raises approved for non-union employees


By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Mahoning County Children Services Board voted to grant 2 percent pay increases to 20 of its non-union employees, mostly supervisors, effective Feb. 1.

It may revisit this issue, however, due to an executive-session notice on its special-meeting agenda that did not accurately describe the matter to be discussed behind closed doors.

Tuesday’s vote followed an executive session that Randall Muth, executive director of the child welfare agency, said was limited to discussion of pay raises for non-union agency employees.

Muth said he plans to consult with the county prosecutor’s office on this matter and that the board could reconsider the raises at a future meeting. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 14.

The agenda said the executive session would be “to prepare for, conduct or review negotiations or bargaining sessions with public employees concerning their compensation or other terms and conditions of their employment.”

That language referred to labor negotiations with unionized employees, and the raises were to go to non-union employees.

Under Ohio’s Open Meetings Act, both open and closed sessions of special meetings are to be limited to items stated on the agenda, according to a manual prepared by Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine’s office.

“I believe the most prudent course of action for me, as the executive director, is to refrain from implementing the action upon which the board voted until such time as the board can reconvene and give me further direction,” Muth said in an email after The Vindicator called the matter to his attention after the meeting.

“I believe that this error [in agenda preparation] was an oversight. It was not intended to deceive the press,” Muth said in a post-meeting interview.

The annual cost of these raises, including all benefit costs, would be $26,026, which would amount to $23,857 for the 11 remaining months of 2017 to which they were intended to apply, said Muth, who recommended the raises.

The raises would go to all of the agency’s nonunion employees, except Muth, who earns $109,990 annually.

The proposed new annual salaries for the nonunion group that would get the raises range from $78,224 for Rona Curtis, the agency’s assistant director, who has 33 years of service, to $41,605 for Jennifer Kollar, the agency’s public information officer, who has two years of service.

“We need to keep pace with the market, really, and with purchasing power and cost of living, and we have very good talent in this agency and we want to keep them. We are probably in the mid-range [in salaries] in terms of similar agencies in adjacent counties, and we want to stay there. We don’t want to sink to a lower level in terms of being competitive in terms of wages,” said Brigid Kennedy, board president, explaining the rationale for raising salaries of the agency’s nonunion staff.

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