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County officials need to punch in

Commissioners vote to require time clock for themselves, others

WARREN — By a 2-1 vote Wednesday, Trumbull County’s board of commissioners adopted a policy requiring commissioners themselves, their support staff, professional staff and all department heads to utilize a time clock during the daily work hours, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Commissioner Mauro Cantalamessa, board president, introduced the policy, which was seconded by Commissioner Frank Fuda.

Commissioner Niki Frenchko, the lone Republican on the board, objected — saying she didn’t mind commissioners filling out time sheets that detailed a specific number of hours worked each day.

Frenchko, however, did not answer when Cantalamessa asked her if she is willing to punch a time clock.

“You are trying to exact your control over me,” Frenchko said. “You are trying to make me your subordinate.”

Commissioners this year have bickered with each other over personal management styles, office policies and the workload of the office staff.

Cantalamessa said his motion was in the name of transparency and accountability to the public.

“We make $95,000 per year, and we have to show up for work,” Cantalamessa said.

The board earlier discussed a motion made by Frenchko that required all employees under the commissioners’ jurisdiction to use a time clock if one is present in their building. The Frenchko proposal also said all employees must account for their time by submitting a weekly time sheet that specifies the number of hours worked daily on each task (in 15-minute increments) and / or project.

That motion failed when both Cantalamessa and Fuda voted no.

Commissioners, also by that same 2-1 vote, instituted monthly staff meetings that will take place the second Thursday of every month at 8:30 a.m. The entire board along with clerk, office support staff and the entire human resources department will meet publicly to discuss updates and evaluate performances.

Frenchko called this meeting “a press conference in which workers parade up to the microphone to attack their boss.” She called it a waste of time and taxpayer money.

Cantalamessa said this action was “extending an olive branch” to Frenchko and a chance for more transparency.

A note with the agenda item, which was introduced by Cantalamessa, stated there have been accusations, misleading remarks and slanderous assumptions made on various social media outlets and radio shows about the commissioners’ office. “Best practice and industry standards call for these types of issues to be discussed with all parties present,” the note stated.

Frenchko said her motion would make commissioners accountable for spending the taxpayer money and also identify which employees may not be needed.

In other action, which commissioners passed by a 2-1 vote, with Frenchko voting no:

• The board approved a new one-year contract with Dr. Phillip P. Malvasi of Niles to provide medical care and treatment of inmates in the Trumbull County jail. The new $633,285 agreement would go into effect Dec. 10. Frenchko wanted to table the motion for one week so that slight changes suggested by the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office could be made, but that motion died for a lack of a second;

• The board placed on file, and made available to the public, two scoring rubrics — one for nonprofit requests — developed by Cantalamessa for the evaluation of projects submitted for American Rescue Plan dollars. The county will receive $38 million in ARP funds and has not acted on that windfall yet. Cantalamessa and Fuda both have advocated public hearings to sound out what citizens want to do with the money. A motion by Frenchko to create a 12-person citizen advisory panel to evaluate project applications with a ranking instrument developed by special projects coordinator James Misocky failed by a 2-1 vote. Cantalamessa said he didn’t like creating another layer where disagreement can reign. “Look at the trouble this three-person panel is having,” he said.

The board did vote 3-0 to assign Misocky to develop a ranking tool to assess the ARP applications, a motion introduced by Frenchko.

“We need something to get us off dead center,” Cantalamessa said.

• Ratified the collecting bargaining agreement between commissioners and AFSCME Local 2493, which represents county office employees including those in the commissioners’ office. The three-year pact, which will expire July 31, 2024, calls for raises of 3 percent the first year, 2 percent the second and 2.5 percent the final year. Frenchko voted no, saying she didn’t think it was appropriate that Richard J. Jackson, human resources director, was the one introducing the raises. “I think county commissioners should be tasked with that job,” she said.

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