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Newton Falls makes law director full-time

Law director made full-time with insurance

NEWTON FALLS — Law Director A. Joseph Fritz already puts in more than 40 hours per week and is available seven days per week for village-related matters, so village council by a 4-1 vote Monday made the position full-time with health insurance.

Village manager David Lynch said Fritz’s contract was approved for four years effective Nov. 1 as “full-time equivalent” with his salary increasing by $2,000 from $53,000 to $55,000 and also will now include health insurance.

A section on paying Fritz $125 per hour for hours beyond the regular 40 hours for representing the village in civil litigation, research, filing of civil pleadings and court appearances was removed. The contract also states at least 16 hours of his work week are to be spent prosecuting cases and handling matters related to Newton Falls Municipal Court.

“There has been a lot of discussion on this contract, which basically is increasing his pay by a nominal $2,000 and health coverage. That is all that has changed. For all he does, this is a bargain for us,” Lynch said.

Council met in a lengthy executive session before the vote and at one point had Fritz join them for questions.

Fritz said after the meeting he was satisfied.

“I am pleased that we reached an agreement and I will be able to continue doing my job,” he said, noting he spends several hours Monday mornings at the offices meeting with officials and department heads plus handling cases Tuesdays and Thursdays for the court.

Fritz said when he is on vacation one week per year, an assistant prosecutor will be available to handle cases in the court and also for the village.

Lynch said Fritz already was putting in full-time hours, so it makes sense to make the position full-time. He said since the coronavirus outbreak, Lynch has been very involved in making sure the village is in compliance with the health department and state guidelines so the village will not get sued.

He said any public records requests, which average one every six days, have to be approved by the law director.

“The volume of work involved with all the court dockets that continue to increase does not allow the law director to say he is too busy. By passing this, he is by de facto a full-time law director,” Lynch said,

Second Ward Councilman John Baryak, who voted “no,” said in addition to getting paid $55,000 from Newton Falls, Fritz also is paid from Lordstown, Braceville and Farmington to handle cases for them in the municipal court.

He questioned a four-year contract and suggested a shorter one, and noted that hospitalization coverage is between $10,000 and $12,000.

Baryak said when Fritz begins full-time status, whenever other village employees get a raise he also will be eligible.

Third Ward Councilman Lyle Waddell said Fritz has shown the amount of time he puts in representing the village and a four-year contract is justified.

“With Mr, Fritz representing Newton Falls, we haven’t been sued. He has proven his value to us as a community leader,” Councilman-at-Large Tarry Alberini, said.

Fritz’s current contract caps his time at 18 hours per week. He said on average, he works seven to eight hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays and four hours on Mondays, but also has to put in time beyond those hours to research requests made by village officials and council members.

Fritz said he has not had a pay increase in six years.

“As a full-time employee, he would be available seven days a week to answer our questions,” Lynch said.

Fritz attends two monthly council meetings on the first and third Monday of each month and Monday morning staff meetings to meet with Lynch and the village department heads on issues and concerns, which he began doing when the village hired Lynch.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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