NEWTON FALLS — Despite objections from several residents, village council voted 3-2 Wednesday to remove the “interim” title from the law director position.
Council members John Baryak, Mike Serotko and Tesa Spletzer voted to approve the action while council members Chris Granchie and Julie Stimpert wanted it to remain.
During a public hearing on the ordinance, several residents voiced objection.
Resident Catie Karl said it is important that the interim title remain as the person is an “interim or acting law director.
“There is no reason to be taking the interim out of the title. That is what the person in that position is. Do what you need to do to get a permanent law director in the position,” she said.
Resident Adam Zimmermann, a former councilman, said there is no reason to remove the “interim” title despite claims that the person in the position receives less respect.
“Respect is earned. Having an interim title does not prevent you from getting respect. It indicates they are in fact an interim in the position,” Zimmermann said.
He said removing the title will mean someone can easily “slide” into a permanent position quietly and questioned if this was the reason for the title’s removal.
“We are fighting over a title. Who cares? There are so many more things that need to be discussed than whether someone is interim or not,” resident Julie Lemon said.
Granchie said he is an appointed council member and does not object to the title so someone who is an interim should also not object.
Mayor Ken Kline said removing the interim title creates more stability.
Karl said council is removing the title based on misinformation that money is being saved by working with new legal representation.
Zimmermann questioned paying Schrader and the law firm Roderick, Linton, Belfance LLC he works for in Akron $88,483 for work done from October to December 2021, which he said he was told was “cleanup” from the past administration.
“That is $26,000 more than we paid Mr. Fritz in an entire year,” he said, noting that would be $442,416 for 12 months compared to former law director Joseph Fritz receiving $62,000 per year.
Zimmermann said the village pays Schrader $165 per hour, including the 45 minutes it takes him to get from Akron to Newton Falls and vice versa for two council meetings a month.
Spletzer said under the former law director, there were bills totaling $123,230 for fees by outside law firms to handle village cases.
She said Schrader already has saved the village $21,673 per month with cuts that have been made such as no secretary at $16,000 and getting rid of law books, which were $1,000 per month.
Interim Finance Director Sean Housley said he will prepare for the March 2 meeting a comparison of the legal costs for the village under the former law director and the costs under the current law director.
Kline also indicated that Interim Village Manager Pam Priddy has begun advertising for 45 days for the law director, finance director, village manager and police chief positions on the village website, local newspapers, the Ohio Municipal League and various association publications .
Resident Rick Kerlin said the last time the village advertised for a finance director they received no applicants. Stimpert questioned if the village should wait to advertise for the police Chief since former police chief Gene Fixler appealed his firing in January,
Attorney Kristofer Immel, filling in for Schrader, said the village still can advertise while there is pending litigation but cannot make a final decision.
“It is important we get the gears in motion to find people,” Baryak said.
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