Port Authority relieves DeLeon of her duties

VIENNA – The Western Reserve Port Authority voted unanimously Wednesday morning to relieve Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon of her title and duties effective April 15.

The board, which previously said it would pay DeLeon’s health insurance for up to a year, instead now has agreed to pay the premium only until April 30. Port Authority Board Chairman James Floyd declined to say what led to the new decision.

DeLeon has been on medical leave since Jan. 16 but has been paid $21,923 through mid-March toward her $95,000 base salary. She likely will collect at least $7,300 more by her April 15 termination date.

In 2013, DeLeon collected her $95,000 base salary plus $55,000 in incentive compensation, amounting to the $150,000 cap spelled out in her contract, according to port authority documents released Wednesday following a Tribune Chronicle public records request.

According to the information, DeLeon was paid $15,000 in June for securing a $640,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant for the port authority. She also was paid $40,000 in November for securing $60 million in capital lease financing for the development of Hollywood Gaming at Mahoning Valley Race Course project under construction in Austintown.

Under the terms of DeLeon’s contract, she was to collect 2.5 percent of any funds received by the port authority in the form of grants. She also was to receive 1 percent of the amount of any financing project for her employer. Hired in November 2009, DeLeon’s contract was to expire at the end of this year.

In its resolution, the board thanked her for her years of service and said it will allow DeLeon to purchase health insurance through the port authority at her cost. The board also said it would assist DeLeon in filing a claim for Public Employment Retirement System disability compensation. Last month, board chairman Floyd had said COBRA, or the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act health benefit plan, was not an option because the port authority employs less than the required number of employees that would obligate the port to provide a COBRA option.

Officials have not disclosed the nature of DeLeon’s illness, but described it as “serious.” She also was absent for a significant period of time due to serious illness in 2012. DeLeon, who lives in the Cleveland area, has not attended any of the monthly board meetings since Dec. 18.

Much of DeLeon’s duties are being absorbed by Sarah Lown, port authority senior economic manager. In a separate action, the board voted to give Lown a one-time $3,000 2013 year-end bonus. The board also increased Lown’s salary by $3,500, bringing it up to $68,500 per year.

The future of the executive director position remains in question. Development of a strategic plan, spearheaded, ironically, by DeLeon, is under way and likely will help dictate the need or role of the position.

Toby Rittner, president and CEO of the Council of Development Finance Agencies, which is creating the strategic plan, attended Wednesday’s meeting and said he intends to return March 31 to meet with local officials to begin developing the plan, which should be complete this year.