Youngstown employee granted TRO to keep her city job


By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

A city employee filed legal action against the mayor to keep her current job.

Visiting Judge Thomas J. Pokorny granted Abigail Beniston a temporary restraining order allowing her to remain as the city’s wastewater-construction engineer. He set a June 25 hearing in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court on her request for a preliminary injunction.

“The court finds that although [Beniston] may possibly have an adequate remedy at law the issuance of a restraining order will prevent claimed irreparable harm to [Beniston] and cause no injury to the respondent city,” Judge Pokorny wrote.

Law Director Jeff Limbian declined to comment because the matter is pending litigation.

Mayor Jamael Tito Brown ordered Beniston to vacate the engineer’s job May 4 and become a code-enforcement inspector, a position Robert J. Rohrbaugh II, Beniston’s attorney, said is “substantially dissimilar” to her current job in terms of salary and responsibility.

When asked if the decision was politically motivated, Rohrbaugh said, “Until we can uncover another reason, we don’t know what to make of it. But we can’t find any other reason.”

Beniston supported then-Mayor John A. McNally over Brown in the Democratic primary last year.

The Vindicator reported in November that during the final weeks of McNally’s administration, he promoted Beniston from code enforcement and blight remediation superintendent to wastewater-construction engineer to help the city with its $150 million long-term sewer-overflow control plan.

Beniston’s salary was increased by 15 percent from $52,811 annually to $60,757 a year. She was appointed on a temporary basis while the Civil Service Commission considered a permanent selection.

Beniston has civil-service protection, but the code-enforcement job was removed as a civil-service position effective Jan. 1, 2015, Rohrbaugh said. This came after city voters chose to adopt a charter amendment making that move in 2014.

Brown hired Michael Durkin, a former Liberty fire chief, on April 26 to the code-enforcement position.

Rohrbaugh said Beniston is entitled to be placed in a position comparable to her previous job. The only classified position that is comparable is her current job as wastewater-construction engineer, he said.

To move her to code-enforcement inspector, which pays about $39,000 annually, is unacceptable as it’s not a similar position and includes a large pay reduction, Rohrbaugh said.

“We don’t know why they tried to demote her,” he said.

Beniston isn’t asking for money, just to keep the job she has, Rohrbaugh added.

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