Trumbull County commissioners blew their stack when the Western Reserve Port Authority awarded successful Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport Aviation Director Daniel Dickten a $7,500 bonus.
''In the face of fiscal restraint shown by other agencies and offices of the county, such an increase stands out as an affront to those who have foregone any increases,'' said Commissioner Paul Heltzel as he and his colleagues punitively cut Port Authority funding.
So where is the rage over approximately $300,000 per year spent on Port Authority Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon? At $155,000 per year, DeLeon is the highest paid public employee in the Mahoning Valley. Without conducting a search, she hired an assistant and, without board approval, granted her a $65,000 salary. Throw in benefits and expense accounts, and the cost is well more than a quarter of a million dollars.
Meanwhile, nothing in DeLeon's contract addresses benchmarks for success. Her three-year contract expires Dec. 7. It contains an automatic renewal if the board does nothing by Nov. 7. There is only one board meeting scheduled before Nov. 7.
For having approved such a contract, for failing to produce evidence showing DeLeon has earned her pay, for disappointing the public-private collaboration that raised money for DeLeon, commissioners should withdraw Port Authority funding and declare this, more than Dickten's bonus, an affront on taxpayers and every public employee in the Mahoning Valley.
Commissioners from both counties should also take a long, hard look at whom they have appointed to serve on the Port Authority board.
At the last Port Authority meeting, board member Andres Visnapuu motioned to notify DeLeon that the board would not renew her contract. Two of his colleagues agreed. However, Board Chairman Scott Lynn and members Scott Lewis, Richard Schiraldi and James Floyd voted against the motion.
Funds for DeLeon's salary and her economic development operating budget surfaced when Warren, Niles, Howland, Youngstown, both counties, the federal government and the building trades council agreed that the region would benefit from an aggressive economic development leader. None of the funders are offering a penny to renew DeLeon's contract, so commissioners from both counties raised taxes.
It's time to again take a stand. If a $7,500 bonus to an airport manager who has measurable results is cause for action, then certainly a $300,000 fiasco merits some response.