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EP to pay up

August 21, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

EAST PALESTINE - The village has agreed to pay former manager Gary Clark 81 thousand, 12 dollars and 5 cents- and not a penny more.

Following an at times heated discussion that included some confusion over exactly what was being discussed, council members agreed to pay Clark the severance money and cease any settlement negotiations.

The discussion occurred exactly a week after Councilman Fran Figley made it public council was discussing the matter behind closed doors.

Gary Clark and his wife Cindy resigned in April after several council discussions over their performance. Cindy Clark worked as his administrative assistant and clerk of council. They both had more than 30 years' employment with the village.

Figley believes, and stated so adamantly during the meeting, that Gary Clark should be paid the severance that is owed him, but nothing more.

Cindy Clark has already received her severance pay, which was $12,700.

Finance Director Traci Thompson said the $81,000 owed Gary Clark is half of his accumulated sick time and some personal time since he was hired by the village as police chief in 1973. He was hired as manager in 2001.

Clark also used accumulated vacation time between April 9, when he made the resignation announcement, and May 9, the day the resignation took effect. During that time he continued receiving his regular rate of pay for a total of $6,653.

Prior to the special meeting on Monday, Village Solicitor Shirley Smith sent an e-mail to all council members saying that she "needed direction" regarding the Clark matter. Specifically, how much he should be paid.

Councilwoman Ellen Beagle, who replaced Raymond "Sunny" Hull in May, questioned whether council was considering the severance pay only, or a settlement as well.

"Are we or are we not in settlement negotiations?" she said.

Smith replied that they are, although Figley argued settlement negotiations were never discussed in the closed door meetings. He did say that in the beginning council was privately discussing paying the Clarks a lump sum of about $150,000, but it never went through since some council members opposed it.

Smith verified council was considering a payment to the Clarks, but said it was a lesser amount than what was being considered now.

Figley said, prior to making the motion, that there are three issues before council: the severance pay, the Clarks seeking unemployment and being denied, and Gary Clark seeking village pick-up on his Public Employment Retirement System (PERS) contribution.

He said Gary Clark had reportedly requested the village pick up his portion of the retirement contribution in 2004, although to his knowledge there is no record of an ordinance showing that was ever done.

He said Clark withdrew the request later that year after the union argued that if he was going to picked up all employees should have village pick-up on their contributions.

Clark reportedly pursued village pick-up again in 2007, but it never came to fruition, Figley said.

He added that if the village approves paying him anything more than the severance, union members will consider the additional money as payment on the PERS pick-up and file a lawsuit.

The village manager position is not a union position.

"Some day, in some courtroom, we are going to have to explain what that money" went toward, Figley said.

Beagle again pointed out that a settlement and severance are two different matters and should be treated as such.

"With a settlement you start at zero dollars ... my (decision) may be different if we are talking settlement or payment," she said prior to the motion.

Also prior to the motion Smith said several times, between interruptions from Figley, that she had "new information" that could potentially change the outcome positively for the village.

Smith said she would only disclose the information in an executive session but Figley refused, and told her more than once to tell council publicly.

Councilwoman Endia Wisser said she would like to know what Smith knew and asked if they could go into executive session, but Figley replied again that Smith should share it during the meeting. Since no one made an official motion to enter into executive session, the information was never shared.

Councilman Don Elzer was the only one absent from the meeting due to work, and if a motion had been made, council could have entered into executive session with four in approval. Figley was the only one who openly opposed holding a closed door session. Councilmen Scott Rauch and Jim Tyger made no indication either way of wanting to hold a session.

Beagle has said before that although some things could be considered legal matters and discussed in executive session she doesn't believe it is required.

Smith told council, hinting at the new information, "You might be able to get all of your eggs in one basket and get a better deal."

She also said that if the village pays the severance and additional amount in the form of a settlement "maybe you'll get something in return."

She didn't indicate what that "something" was, but added she didn't believe paying the severance alone would fully resolve the issue.

Figley then accused her, for a second time, of running council meetings.

Upon Beagle's recommendation, council approved a motion that the village pay Gary Clark his severance and cease all settlement negotiations. The vote was unanimous.

Thompson said the $81,012.05 will come out of the general fund. She will contact Gary Clark to determine how the money will be paid, whether in one lump sum or over a period of time.



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