VIENNA - The Western Reserve Port Authority voted unanimously Wednesday to approve indefinite medical leave for its executive director, retroactive to Jan. 16.
Rose Ann DeLeon will be paid her regular salary until her accrued vacation and sick time is exhausted. After that, the port authority agreed to continue to fund DeLeon's health insurance benefits for up to one year.
Her contract allows her to accrue up to 12 sick days each year along with up to 22 vacation days and six personal days each year.
Officials did not disclose the nature of DeLeon's illness, but described it as "serious." DeLeon, who has been absent from the last two board meetings, also did not attend Wednesday's meeting in which the action was taken.
DeLeon's administrative duties will be absorbed temporarily by members of the Port Authority board and Sarah Lown, senior economic manager.
The port authority expanded the economic development committee by two members in order to help handle some of the economic development issues in the absence of an executive director.
Port Authority Chairman James Floyd said he expects DeLeon to seek disability compensation through the Public Employment Retirement System, and if approved, he expects DeLeon to transfer her health coverage to that plan.
"We believe that the necessity for the medical benefits may be replaced by the PERS," Floyd said.
He said a COBRA plan, or Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act health benefit plan, was not an option because the port authority employs less than 20 employees. Only employers with 20 employees or more are obligated to provide the COBRA option, according to the U.S. Department of Labor rules.
"We wish her well and we also believe that by stating in public (of DeLeon's continuing health coverage), it illustrates the compassion that I believe the board demonstrates," Floyd said.
The future of the position remains in question. The port authority previously began the process of developing a strategic plan that it hopes to wrap up by summer. The results of that plan, Floyd said, will help dictate what direction the board takes in filling the position in the future.
DeLeon's salary is $95,000 per year plus incentives. Her contract was set to expire at the end of this year.
She also had been off for an extended period of time due to serious illness in 2012.