Newton Falls council approves new contracts for 4 officials
Mayor, residents voice objections during four-plus hour meeting
NEWTON FALLS — Despite a recommendation from Mayor Kenneth Kline to wait until after the holidays to vote on new contracts for four village officials, village council on Monday by a 4-1 vote approved the contracts as emergency measures, effective immediately.
Contracts that were approved as emergency measures by council, which are effective today instead of in 30 days, are four-year contracts for village manager David Lynch, police Chief Gene Fixler and finance director Anna Musson; and a four-and-a-half-year contract for Clerk Kathy King.
The contracts include pay increases that will bring the pay of the village manager to $89,258 and the pay of the clerk, police chief, and finance director to $72,500.
Council members Adam Zimmerman, Lyle Waddell, Sandra Breymaier and Tarry Alberini voted in favor of the contracts as emergencies while Councilman John Baryak voted against them.
Baryak said he’s against new contracts during a pandemic and wants to compare the salaries to what similar positions are paid in other communities. Baryak said he wanted to table indefinitely the contracts while Alberini had suggested tabling them for two weeks.
It was a virtual meeting lasting more than four and a half hours. That included a one hour and 45 minute public comment section on the contracts, for people to call in; plus a three-minute restroom break. Many residents questioned why the contracts could not be delayed until after the pandemic.
Kline said he wanted the contracts tabled until after the holidays for further review.
The four contracts were originally for six years but Councilman-at-Large Alberini had recommended four years instead of six- year contracts.
“Our staff here deserves at least a four-year contract for the work that they have done. I feel four years is adequate,” he said.
Alberini said the contracts are needed to secure good, long-term employees.
“Our employees have felt threatened that they potentially may lose their jobs with a change of council people. If a person has done a good job, you have to be objective and say this is my team. These four people are very good people that any other community would want to have. They bring their expertise to Newton Falls,” Alberini said.
He said if the employees were hired in the private sector they would make six figures.
Tim Stinson was among many residents, including some who were very angry, who called in to the meeting. Stinson said it is inappropriate to be giving new contracts and raises during a pandemic.
“We should not be giving long-term contracts during COVID right now. It is irresponsible,” said Stinson.
Stinson said if the employees are doing their jobs they should not be worried or have fear of losing them.
Stinson and resident Brian Kropp said more than 100 people were online for the council meeting.
“I’m floored and disgusted at council. You should all be ashamed of yourselves. This was all pre-planned before this meeting,” said Kropp.
Resident Monica Butler said the residents voted for the council members to represent them and should wait on the contracts.
“This is council’s last-ditch effort to thumb your noses at the residents,” Butler said.
Kline said no one knows what will happen with the coronavirus pandemic or what Gov. Mike DeWine will do that will affect the economy.
“No new contracts should be going through in this type of atmosphere. We do not know what will happen next. This is not a good decision,” resident Laura Neiheisel said.