VIENNA - Twice the Western Reserve Port Authority deadlocked Friday morning with votes that would have ended the existing contract of port Executive Director Rose Ann DeLeon.
Unless the port authority board calls a special meeting before a Nov. 7 deadline to try again to come to new terms or DeLeon voluntarily agrees to new contract language after the deadline, the contract will automatically renew for another year at her current annual salary of $155,000.
Trumbull and Mahoning County commissioners, who made a rare appearance at the port authority board meeting Friday morning to voice their opinions, left angry at the nondecision, criticizing the lack of cohesion among the eight port authority board members they appoint to their posts.
A new employment contract that would have cut DeLeon's base salary to $95,000 but give her opportunities to earn back up to $55,000, was introduced in a motion that also called for the termination of her existing contract.
Under the proposed new contract, DeLeon would be paid 2.5 percent of any money DeLeon secures in grants and 1 percent of any bond financing project or external leases she secures for the port. Minor adjustments were made to her vacation and personal allowances, and her sick time was scaled down to 10 days from the previous contract that set no specific limits. There would be no changes to the health and life insurance benefits.
The vote failed to pass by simple majority. Board members Scott Lynn, Scott Lewis, Richard Schiraldi and James Floyd voted in favor of the motion. Andres Visnapuu, Don L. Hanni III and Richard Musick voted against the measure, and Patrick Pellin abstained.
It needed five ayes to pass since eight people were voting, even though one of those people abstained, according to Dan Keating, the board's attorney.
A subsequent motion introduced by Hanni that called for notification and termination of DeLeon's existing contract also failed by a 4-4 vote, with Lynn, Lewis, Schiraldi and Floyd voting no. Visnapuu, Hanni, Musick and Pellin voted yes.
Trumbull Commissioner Dan Polivka criticized the move, saying he was "taken aback." Before the vote he had addressed the board urging the members not to retain DeLeon.
''I think we need to move in a new direction,'' Polivka said. ''The results have not been there, and I think it's time to open this up.''
Trumbull Commissioner Frank Fuda, also in attendance, said he didn't agree with the current contract.
Mahoning Commissioner Carol Remidio-Righetti's frustration also was apparent. "We should give her a year with a reduced salary. That amount of money ($155,000) was high, and I would not see that salary put into a new contract,'' Remidio-Righetti said. She also criticized the board for not communicating with the Mahoning commissioners on the matter ahead of time.
''When something this important is going to be voted on, these guys should have come to us,'' she said. ''I don't want to read about it or hear about it in the newspaper. I really feel offended.''
DeLeon, meanwhile, says she is open to the possibility of a reduced salary with incentives.
"In fact, it was my suggestion we go into a lower salary with some sort of incentives, so absolutely I'm open to that," Deleon said.
After the meeting, Lynn, the board chairman, and Lewis, said they had met with Trumbull Commissioners on separate occasions to discuss the decision.
''I want Rose Ann to stay on because I think she's done a good job,'' Lewis said. ''She has been instrumental in putting together the bond issues and the Delphi real estate arrangement, and Rose Ann also was instrumental in putting together a V&M Star deal. Interesting that all of her major deals took place in Trumbull County.''
Lewis was hinting at the fact that the Trumbull commissioners had spoken against retaining her, while the Mahoning commissioner supported DeLeon.
''There is no concurrence with the board nor with the commissioners,'' Lewis said. "At the end of the day, we voted the way we thought was right.''
Lynn and Lewis said they still expected to modify DeLeon's contract with a reduced salary, but there is no regular port authority board meetings scheduled before the Nov. 7 deadline. Lynn could not say whether a special meeting would be called to take that action.