August 2, 2014

Elyria
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Lorain councilman quits tax committee

LORAIN — Councilman Dan Given on Monday relinquished his seat on the Tax Incentive Review Committee following calls from another council member last month to step down.
Given, D-at large, said he had been planning on giving up the committee seat before the group met this month so that it could operate without controversy. He and two other council members made up the committee, which was tasked with certifying that Community Reinvestment Area applications are accurate. It was set up last year to keep track of the actions of the administration, which officially approves the abatements for such areas.
Last month, Councilman Phil Betleski, D-2nd Ward, exchanged several e-mails with Given, accusing him of violating the Ohio Ethics Code because he has certified applications from homes that were built by Oster Homes, where Given is employed. On Monday, Betleski said he no longer felt there was a conflict of interest.
“I’m fine with it,” he said. “Nobody else has a problem with it. I was just concerned.”
Before Monday’s Council meeting, Given asked Council President Ken Shawver to replace him on the committee so there wouldn’t be any appearance of impropriety. Shawver selected former 7th Ward Councilman Joe Smith.
“He’s familiar with Council and with CRAs, which is important,” Shawver said. “It gives him an opportunity to contribute.”
Given said he liked the appointment because it adds an outsider to the committee. He has said repeatedly that he didn’t feel his position was a problem because neither he nor Oster Homes were benefiting from the CRA programs.
Also at the meeting, Council passed an ordinance that defines the pay and benefits of a city department manager, but left out one key perk the managers enjoyed.
In an 8-to-2 vote, Council took away an exemplary attendance bonus that gives managers bonus pay for not using sick days.
The bonus had been paid even if a manager was sick as long as he or she provided a doctor’s excuse for missing a day’s work.
The clause had been ridiculed by several Council members who believed that it rewarded managers just for doing what they are supposed to do — show up to work. Department managers are employees who are not allowed to join the city’s union because of their supervisory position.
Voting against the ordinance were Councilmen Tony Krasienko, D-at large, and David Escobar, D-3rd Ward. Councilwoman Kathy Tavenner, D-at large, did not attend the meeting.
Contact Adam Wright at 329-7151 or awright@chroniclet.com.