Youngstown board approves settlement with city employee

Published: Fri, August 3, 2018 @ 12:04 a.m.

By David Skolnick


The city’s board of control approved a lawsuit settlement with an employee who sued to keep her job.

The board agreement Thursday comes two days after city council voted to change the title of the job held by Abigail Beniston from wastewater construction engineer to wastewater construction coordinator and to reduce the job’s annual salary from $60,769 to $52,805.

The settlement includes retaining Beniston at her new reduced salary and paying $1,000 in her attorney fees in exchange for her dropping the lawsuit.

The city and Beniston reached an out-of-court agreement June 25 to stop Mayor Jamael Tito Brown from demoting her to a code-enforcement officer at an annual salary of about $39,000.

Former Mayor John A. McNally promoted Beniston in November. But Brown, who beat McNally for the mayoral seat last year, ordered Beniston to vacate the job May 4 and become a code-enforcement inspector, resulting in her lawsuit.

Before the promotion, Beniston was the code-enforcement and blight-remediation superintendent with a salary almost identical to what she will now make.

“It puts closure on the matter,” said Jeff Limbian, law director and board of control member. “Going to trial is always a risk for both sides. It seems like a fair resolution.”

Beniston filed the lawsuit, her attorney Robert J. Rohrbaugh II said, because the job Brown wanted her to take is “substantially dissimilar” to her current one in terms of salary and responsibility. Rohrbaugh said Beniston is entitled to be in a position comparable to her previous job.

Visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny granted Beniston a temporary restraining order May 8 allowing her to remain as wastewater construction engineer. The two sides were supposed to be in court June 25 for a hearing on Beniston’s request for a preliminary injunction, but instead met behind closed doors and ironed out the settlement.

Beniston’s job title changed, but her responsibilities are about the same. Also, with the new job title, she will be entitled to overtime, which she wasn’t as wastewater construction engineer.

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