Fired manager gets $14,000 for 9 hours

NEWTON FALLS – It comes out to $1,583 a hour for every hour he was city manager – none of which was during business hours.

Village council approved a $14,250 lawsuit settlement with its former city manager, Harry Benetis, who they removed nine hours into his contract last January.

In a split vote, council agreed to let City Manager Jack Haney’s contract expire at the end of 2011, and hired Benetis to replace Haney beginning Jan. 1, 2012.

However, on Jan. 1, 2012, a slightly altered lineup of councilmen came into office. Their first act was to hold an emergency meeting New Year’s morning and, in a split decision, overturned the previous vote for Benetis, and to reinstate Haney as manager.

The flip in votes was caused by the November 2011 election of Philip Beer to council. Beer took office Jan. 1. Beer, who sided with Haney, replaced councilman James Luonuansuu, who had voted for Benetis.

At the time, Benetis said he believed the decision was made based on the village’s politics, especially since he hadn’t been invited to the emergency meeting at 9 a.m.

Benetis had been hired with a two-year contract at $50,000 a year, with a clause granting a six-month severance pay should the contract be ended before the two years. Benetis said since the village was not willing to pay the severance, last March he filed the lawsuit.

“I’m sad that the whole thing came about,” Benetis said. “I would have rather worked for my money.”

Benetis and his lawyer met with Law Director Joseph Fritz and Haney at the beginning of the month with a court-appointed mediator at the Trumbull County Court to work out a negotiation. The settlement is a little over half of what Benetis’ severance pay should have been according to his contract.

Haney declined to comment. Fritz did not return phone calls for a comment.