October 24, 2014

Medina
Partly cloudy
39°F

Medina Schools backlash delays treasurer’s new contract

Medina school board members postponed a vote on a new contract for Treasurer Jim Hudson after hearing opposition from several community members at Monday’s board meeting.

Board member Bill Grenfell shared details of the new contract in a PowerPoint presentation at the meeting, saying it would include no increase in salary or benefits.

“There is nothing in this contract that is going to increase Jim Hudson’s compensation by one dollar,” Grenfell said.

But a number of people in the audience protested that a copy of the contract wasn’t available before the meeting.

Medina resident Mark Kuhar, creator of the “Medina City Schools Outrage Page” on Facebook said, “We spent all that time working for the levy and the first thing you do, the first board meeting, you throw down an administrative contract.”

Kuhar said the community should have time to see what’s in the contract.

“A lot of people feel like the trust of this community has been betrayed again,” he said. “Are you going to vote on this tonight, after we’ve had 30 seconds to look at a contract?”

The Gazette requested a copy of the new contract Friday, but did not receive one before presstime Monday.

Before Monday’s meeting, board President Karla Robinson and Grenfell both said they would not provide a copy of the proposed contract for Hudson because it was not yet finalized.

Tim Smith, professor emeritus at Kent State University and an expert in media law, said the contract should be public under Ohio law, even if board members had not yet voted on it.

“They’ve drafted a contract, and they have a copy available to all the board members, I assume,” he said. “There’s no reason it shouldn’t be available to the public.”

Robinson said that she thought board members had agreed on the contract last week, but since the weekend, they were no longer on the same page.

“We don’t have an agreement on that contract yet,” she said. “We’re not on the same page. I had thought we were on the same page at the end of the week.”

Robinson said she’s received a lot of questions from the community about the timing of the contract vote — nearly two weeks after voters approved a five-year, 5.9-mill levy — the first since 2005.

Voters approved the levy 58 percent to 42 percent, according to unofficial final results from Medina County Board of Elections.

She said the board had a window of time between Aug. 1 this year and March 1, 2014, to approve the contract, and that the negotiation process can be long. Robinson said the board has been discussing the contract for months in executive session.

“Even though the contract won’t start until the summer, most boards would prefer to get this out of the way sooner rather than later,” she said.

Robinson said the board did a countywide salary study, and compared the contracts of all of the school treasurers in Medina. She said the board’s outside labor attorney reviewed the contract several times.

Under his current contract, which expires July 31, 2014, Hudson is paid a base salary of $90,500, plus several thousand dollars for working extended days.

Grenfell said the extended days were included in the base salary for the new contract, bringing the new base to $97,241.

Grenfell said a previous draft of the contract included a 5 percent financial incentive for Hudson based on how much net revenue he brings in for the district from a shared services agreement with Cloverleaf Schools.

But that provision was dropped, Grenfell said, after hearing from various school officials, including interim Superintendent Dave Knight, human resources department and labor unions.

Medina Schools contracts with Cloverleaf to provide treasurer services, and the district receives $72,000 from that agreement.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board voted to change the agenda item for the contract — changing it from a five-year contract starting Aug. 1, 2014, and ending July 31, 2019, to a three-year contract ending in 2017.

Another resident, Doug Eastwood, thanked the board for the change from a five-year to three-year contract, and urged the board to put off a vote.

“Not that you need our permission slip, but if there was anything legitimately that someone could look into and question, I would encourage you to put that off for a future action,” Eastwood said.

After the community comment session, Hudson asked the board to table the vote on his contract until the next regular meeting in December. He said that as a former auditor, he took his job extremely seriously.

He urged the community to contact him with questions about district finances.

“I’ve gotten a lot of good questions from the community,” he said. “Call me, email me, ask me questions about what’s been going on.”

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.