Contract dispute

Fostoria council OKs payment up to $100,000

FOSTORIA — Fostoria council members approved legislation this week allowing the mayor to settle with a former employee for up to $100,000.

According to legislation approved Tuesday, council authorized Mayor Eric Keckler to finalize a separation agreement with former city engineer Dan Thornton.

Multiple calls and a voicemail to Keckler were not returned by Friday. Safety Services Director Deb Hellman also did not return calls.

An attempt to reach Thornton was unsuccessful.

According to the legislation, council needed to consider it as an emergency measure so the city could “timely resolve Mr. Thornton’s separation from the city.”

In November, council members learned through media reports that the city’s zoning inspector, Sandy Coleman, and Thornton were fired Nov. 13. Since Coleman was an at-will employee, city administration did not need a reason to remove her.

Thornton, who was hired in 2008, was under contract through 2020.

According to the contract, Thornton was to be paid $11,000 a month through 2018 and then $11,500 monthly through 2020. Beginning in January 2018, Thornton would have been paid $408,000 through the rest of the contract.

Thornton’s contract states the agreement could be terminated by either party at any time with written notice “should there be substantial nonperformance by a party to this agreement.”

If the city initiated the process, the contract states the city would be required to pay for all services rendered to date and 20 percent of the remaining agreement. If Thornton was paid for services in November — the month he was fired — the 20 percent figure would equal about $83,800.

It is not clear what city fund the money will be paid to Thornton from and when an agreement will be reached.

The city has been under fiscal emergency since May 2016 due to a substantial deficit.

Councilman Doug Pahl said city administration told council members not to discuss the settlement because negotiations are ongoing. He said because talks were ongoing, the issue was too sensitive for further comment.

On Nov. 21, city council went into executive session for 78 minutes discussing personnel, according to a statement during the council meeting.

Keckler said during the council meeting that the changes were made to start a reorganization process for the city. He said the two were fired because it is “best for the city.”

The zoning inspector position was approved by ordinance in 2012. The person in that job was paid $14 per hour and contributed up to 40 hours per week, at the mayor’s discretion. The position was paid 25 percent from General Fund, 25 percent from the street fund, 25 percent from the water fund and 25 percent from the sewer fund.

It is unclear if Coleman also is seeking a settlement from the city.

City council recently passed legislation approving a job description for a position that will handle duties similar to those handled by the engineer and zoning offices and is to be part of Keckler’s reorganization effort.

According to the ordinance, a compliance officer/project coordinator is to be a full-time position with salary of $48,500-$60,000 annually. The job description includes serving as a technical adviser to the city on regulatory compliance issues, coordinating project activities and recommending infrastructure projects. The person hired is to work closely with Hellman.

Also related to the reorganization, another job posting was listed in January for a part-time code enforcement position. The hourly wage is $12.