Council approves bonuses for Middleport employees

By Michael Hart - Special to the Sentinel

MIDDLEPORT — A special meeting of the Middleport Village Council was held Tuesday evening regarding Christmas bonuses for village employees.

Council approved two categories of bonuses for village employees, though one of the approvals was strongly debated.

Assistant Chief and Jail Administrator Monty Wood presented a plan, which was swiftly approved, to allocate among the 23 Middleport Police and jail personnel a portion of an $8,000 donation given to the department.

The nine full-time employees were given $200 each and 14 part-time employees given $150 each.

That count “includes the cooks, as employees of this building,” said Wood.

Wood said the money came from an organization in two parts during the year, was intended for police and jail personnel, and was unlikely to reoccur.

“I was very clear with everyone that (if bonuses are approved), we may never, ever get this again. But it is well deserved,” he concluded.

The council then heard a motion to give matching bonuses to Public Works employees, which includes virtually all village employees not part of the first appropriation.

The funds for that item would come from the budget of Village Administrator Joe Woodall.

“Public Works fares fairly well, it is not an issue with the budget,” Woodall said.

Woodall stated that the council had made salary appropriations for his office at the beginning of the year, and his office remained well within that amount.

Woodall also confirmed the bonus checks were previously mailed “with my approval, because it was already in the budget,” and reiterated his understanding of fiscal discretion granted to the Village Administrator.

Portions of the council were highly critical of that action, including Councilperson Sharon Older.

She requested the village solicitor look at legal recourse available if the checks were written both unapproved by the council and outside the powers granted the administrator by the Ohio Revised Code.

The council was divided whether the administrator could spend money on bonuses without going through the legislative body, regardless of the health of the office’s finances.

Older contended only operations and equipment were part of the yearly appropriations to Public Works, not supplemental payroll.

Village Solicitor Rick Hedges was given the interim task of determining whether bonuses in the Public Works department required council’s approval.

Speaking after the meeting, Mayor Sandy Ianarrelli expressed severe dissatisfaction with suggestions Woodall acted inappropriately.

“He cares for the people of Middleport,” she said, and local government “would not find a finer gentleman for that position.”

Councilperson Dick Vaughan was the deciding yes vote, saying “I think it was not done right, but I hate to not give them.”

Vaughan made clear he would refuse to vote affirmatively in the future unless a clear recommendation from the solicitor preempted future disputes.

The motion passed three votes to two.

By Michael Hart

Special to the Sentinel