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Still out of reach

September 25, 2012
By KATIE SCHWENDEMAN - Staff Writer ( , Morning Journal News

EAST PALESTINE - Former village manager Gary Clark has until Oct. 3 to file another appeal for unemployment compensation through the state.

He and his wife Cindy filed for unemployment this summer after resigning from their administrative positions following several council discussions over their performance.

Cindy Clark was working as his administrative assistant and clerk of council and both had more than 30 years' experience with the village when they resigned in early April. They said the decision was a result of the way they were being treated by members of council and the public.

The announcements came shortly after some on council publicly said they wanted Gary Clark fired.

The state Department of Job and Family Services denied Cindy Clark's unemployment request on June 15, and his was denied on July 6. The couple appealed those decisions, which sent the case to the state Unemployment Compensation Review Commission.

A hearing for Cindy Clark was held with the commission by phone on Aug. 23. Also in on the hearing were Gary Clark, Mayor Margo Zuch, Village Solicitor Shirley Smith, Finance Director Traci Thompson and council members Jim Tyger, Fran Figley, Don Elzer and Endia Wisser.

Gary Clark's phone hearing with the commission was on Sept. 7 with Smith and Thompson.

Councilman Fran Figley on Monday provided a copy of the commission's findings, which noted the Clarks were denied benefits because they didn't have justifiable reasons for quitting their jobs.

In the document, dated Sept. 12 and signed by hearing officer Martin Krauss, the reason listed for the second denial of benefits for Gary Clark was that there wasn't evidence to support his argument that had he not resigned he would have been fired.

"There is insufficient evidence to find that the claimant was under such unreasonable circumstances or hardship or medical condition at the time of his resignation that the quit was justified," Krauss stated.

He further stated that Gary Clark's argument that he quit in order to avoid risking losing banked sick leave was "not well taken."

Gary Clark even admitted, according to the documents, he had no reason to believe that three of the six council members seated at that time would vote to have him fired.

Therefore, the commission determined he quit without just cause, and as such could not be eligible for benefits. He will remain ineligible until he obtains another job covered by an unemployment compensation law and must have at least six weeks, or earn $1,332 at the new job, before those benefits start.

He has until Oct. 3 to file an appeal of the second denial. His wife had until Sept. 19 to file an appeal of the second denial. Whether she did is unknown at this time.

According to the documents, Cindy Clark claimed three members of council were being "disrespectful" and "inappropriate" to her, and that council was "critical" of how she kept the meeting minutes.

The commission found that although it was "understandable," based on council discussions, that she had concerns about her and Gary Clark's future employment with the village, council had acted within its rights and she did not have a justifiable reason to quit and her benefits were suspended.

Council members agreed in August to pay Gary Clark the $81,000 owed him for 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.

Cindy Clark has already received her severance pay, which was $12,700. She was making more than $14 an hour and he was making more than $34 an hour when they resigned.

Council recently approved keeping Pete Monteleone on as village manager. He was hired to replace Gary Clark on an interim basis in June. At $65,000 a year, he is making about the same annual salary as Clark.



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