Vigorito to get MVSD back pay despite criminal conviction
By Jordan Cohen
Despite a criminal conviction and elimination of his position by the Mahoning Valley Sanitary District, Anthony Vigorito, former plant operations manager, will receive about $14,925 in back pay from the MVSD for two months of unpaid administrative leave last year.
Last March, Vigorito, 42, of Niles, filed suit in Trumbull Common Pleas Court asking for an order that would force the district to hand over the back pay and nearly $12,000 more in unused sick leave.
The district is contesting the latter claim, but the MVSD board of directors is expected to approve the back-pay issue without a court order Wednesday. The reason: a state statute that leaves the board with no choice, according to Atty. Thomas Wilson, the district’s legal counsel.
Vigorito had been indicted on six felony counts including forgery, criminal noncompliance and tampering with records involving falsified training certificates for Youngstown Water Department employees. Instead last December, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of attempted forgery, criminal noncompliance with Ohio’s law governing safe drinking water and tampering with records. He was sentenced to one year of probation.
“The Legislature made the differentiation between felonies and misdemeanors,” Wilson told The Vindicator. “Any judge looking at this is going to tell us [we’ve] got to pay it.”
The statute in the Ohio Revised Code states that if an individual covered by civil-service provisions is not convicted of a felony, “the appointing authority shall pay the employee at the employee’s base rate of pay, plus interest, for the period the employee was on the unpaid administrative leave.”
Wilson conceded that by pleading to misdemeanors and avoiding a felony conviction, Vigorito is entitled to back pay, but argues the statute should be changed. He said there should be no compensation regardless of the degree of severity for those breaking the law in the performance of their duties.
“If you are found guilty or plead guilty to felony or misdemeanor, it only makes sense that you do not recoup the money you lost when you were placed on unpaid administrative leave,” Wilson said. “There’s absolutely no question in my mind.”
The two sides disagree over sick-leave repayment. Wilson explained that under MVSD policy, either a retired or fired employee with more than 10 years of seniority is limited to one-half of the maximum allowed accrued unused sick leave. Vigorito had 640 such hours. Wilson said the ex-manager has already been paid for 320 of them amounting to $11,493, and the district has no further payment obligation.
Not so, argues Atty. Martin White, representing Vigorito. White cites the language of the resolution that eliminated his client’s job, which he said takes precedence over MVSD policy.
“The resolution doesn’t say half of benefits,” White said. “It says, ‘Mr. Vigorito [is] to receive any earned or accrued and unpaid vacation or sick leave benefits.’
“If they had said, ‘Mr. Vigorito, you’re fired’ and kept the position open and filled it, then he would be entitled to whatever the policy is of the MVSD, and we wouldn’t be having this argument.”
White says he plans to file a motion for a summary judgment in Vigorito’s favor that would eliminate the need for a trial over the sick- leave dispute. He said he has 30 days to file his motion and Wilson will have another 30 days to respond to it.
“This is about an elimination of a position as opposed to termination of employment,” White said. “We will ask [Judge Peter Kontos] to look at the plain language of the resolution.”
Vigorito worked 19 years for MVSD. He had been chief engineer, but was removed from the position in late 2015 after he failed to qualify for a Professional Engineer certification required by the MVSD and a Class IV license, which the Environmental Protection Agency mandates for operating a water-purification facility.
The board of directors subsequently created the plant operations manager position for him.