Terminated Niles schools employee sues over grievance

Staff report


A former Niles Schools employee and union filed suit in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court, saying Niles School District should have referred his grievance of his January job termination to binding arbitration.

The filing is by Christopher Chieffo of Girard and Niles Education Association. It is assigned to Judge Ronald Rice.

Chieffo, who the school board fired in January for falsification of sick leave, sued the district seeking $4 million for civil fraud, defamation and civil conspiracy, but he recently dismissed that suit.

According to his personnel file, Chieffo called off sick Oct. 3, 2017, when he was actually coaching the Howland High School boys golf team at a tournament in Alliance.

The new filing says the school board cited a section of Ohio law for its authority to terminate Chieffo related to a school board terminating an employment contract. But that section of law is not mentioned anywhere in the collective-bargaining agreement covering Chieffo, the suit says.

The board took the position that Chieffo’s termination was not subject to arbitration, but the union disagrees.

Named as defendants are the board, Superintendent Ann Marie Thigpen and Treasurer Lori Hudzik.

The union demanded arbitration April 11, but the board indicated it would not participate, the filing says. The board changed its position Aug. 29 and agreed to participate in arbitration, but changed its position again Sept. 17 and again refused arbitration, the suit says.

A call to the two lawyers representing the board in earlier litigation involving Chieffo, Craig Pelini and Kristen Campbell was not returned Thursday. A call to Thigpen also was not returned.

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