A settlement allows a Youngstown employee to keep her job but at a lower salary

Published: Tue, June 26, 2018 @ 12:05 a.m.

By David Skolnick



The city reached an out-of-court agreement that keeps an employee at her current job but will reduce her pay.

Abigail Beniston had filed a lawsuit to stop Mayor Jamael Tito Brown from demoting her from wastewater-construction engineer to a code-enforcement officer. That move would have reduced her annual salary from $60,757 to about $39,000.

The agreement reached Monday, before a court hearing, will allow Beniston to keep her job but reduce her salary to $52,811 annually, what she made as code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent, her previous position.

The deal must be finalized by city council, which will meet in the coming weeks to approve it, said Nicole Alexander, assistant law director.

“We are pleased” with the settlement, said Robert J. Rohrbaugh II, Beniston’s attorney. “We think it’s just, and I think both sides are happy – and that’s important. A lot of times when you walk out of a settlement agreement, one side feels as though they’ve been beat and it doesn’t work going forward. We think here both sides are happy. Both sides are satisfied.”

Alexander said: “I think it’s a good resolution for both parties.”

Beniston was promoted in November. Jamael Tito Brown, who beat McNally for the mayoral seat last year, ordered Beniston to vacate the engineer’s job May 4 and become a code-enforcement inspector.

Beniston filed the lawsuit, Rohrbaugh 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 Monday 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 will change, but her responsibilities will be the same, Rohrbaugh said. He wasn’t sure of what the new name would be, but it will be something like wastewater treatment plant construction manager.

“It’s semantics,” he said.

While her salary will be reduced, Rohrbaugh said the agreement calls for her to be eligible for overtime.

“There’s a lot of work down there, and Abby works a lot of hours,” he said. “The city will benefit from extra work from her.”

City officials have declined to discuss the reasons for Brown’s attempt to demote Beniston. But Rohrbaugh has alluded to political motivation playing a role. Beniston supported McNally in the Democratic primary last year.

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