Members of Council are debating whether a parks and recreation official who admittedly does little work for the department should keep her position, but may not be able to do anything about it.
CUYAHOGA FALLS — Members of Council are debating whether a parks and recreation official who admittedly does little work for the department should keep her position, but may not be able to do anything about it.
Council member Vic Pallotta (R-3) was the first Councilor to raise questions about the work being done by assistant parks and recreation superintendent Megan Moreland.
Pallotta said that he began investigating the issue following a conversation he had with Parks and Recreation Department Superintendent Ed Stewart in October.
Pallotta said the parks system “is supposed to be non-political,” but with the hiring of Moreland, who has worked on Mayor Don Walters’ campaigns, he noted there were two “high-profile Democrats” in Law Director Russ Balthis and Councilor-elect Tim Gorbach who were with Stewart on the three member search committee.
“It was a continual error process in this thing,” said Pallotta.
Pallotta said he knew of at least three “very well-qualified” people within the parks department who applied for the assistant superintendent’s job.
“They passed up some good people who should have been promoted,” said Pallotta. “…It’s strictly a political appointment. It’s just wrong.”
Moreland told Council Nov. 20 she does not directly supervise park employees and Stewart said Moreland handles programs that are “mostly not related to the park and rec department.”
Finance chair Carol Klinger (R-At Large), proposed on Nov. 27 that Council amend the 2018 budget ordinance to no longer fund Moreland’s $90,344 position.
Whether Council can end Moreland’s employment with the city is unclear, after Balthis said Council can cut funding for department personnel, but emphasized Council “cannot eliminate the position.”
Balthis said that if the funding is cut, Stewart and the Park Board would decide how to manage the department’s budget, which could include keeping Moreland on board.
Neither Moreland nor Stewart replied to phone messages left for them by press time.
After the Nov. 27 meeting, Walters noted the the parks and recreation superintendent is “responsible for monitoring the job duties of the assistant superintendent. The governing body of the Parks and Recreation Department is the Parks and Recreation Board.”
Walters called the work that Moreland had done on the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative “transformational.”
“I have heard nothing but positive feedback about her work with the community,” said Walters. “Whatever Council decides, I am committed to the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative and we will continue to provide these valuable services to our residents.”
Walters said he believes Moreland is qualified for the job and noted that he believes the search committee looked at Moreland’s past work as a campaign manager as a “good thing with the organizational skills, community outreach, team building ...”
Klinger asked the city administration to prepare an amendment “to defund this position because it's the only authority we have … and we'll see where the votes go after that.”
After the Council meeting, Klinger said she expects the budget ordinance to be brought out of the finance committee on Dec. 4 and voted on by Council on Dec. 11.
“If approved, effective Jan. 1, the city budget will not include the funds to pay for the position,” explained Klinger.
At the Nov. 27 Council meeting, Klinger said Moreland's description of her work at the Nov. 20 meeting “sounded like it's more of a community organizer type of position” and added she “felt sick as I left the meeting last week, knowing that we allowed this position to be filled.”
“The administration presented this position as an assistant superintendent's position … and we put someone in the job who did a completely different function,” said Klinger.
Moreland served as one of Walters’ campaign managers when he first ran for mayor in 2013, but Walters noted Moreland was “not very involved” in the 2017 mayoral campaign.
Walters also said he was not involved in the hiring of Moreland for the parks’ job. According to city records, Stewart told Council’s finance committee in 2014 that a committee reviewed 48 applications for the position, selected 10 people for interviews and chose Moreland to fill the post.
Balthis noted that, per city ordinance, the parks and recreation department superintendent has the authority to hire and fire the assistant superintendent.
At the Nov. 20 Council meeting, Moreland said she studied for four years in the political science field, but did not obtain a bachelor's degree.
When asked to describe her duties, Moreland discussed her work with the Neighborhood Excellence Initiative and with revamping the city’s website.
Walters added that Moreland “rarely” communicates with him about projects she is working on and noted that Moreland reports to Stewart, who is her supervisor.
“A lot of her duties have been outside of the park and rec duties that they do, but she was doing things to add value, things that were going to be the community outreach and benefit the parks as well at the same time,” said Walters.
Walters said that no Council member has contacted him with concerns about the situation.
He said it would be up to Stewart to determine whether Moreland is fulfilling her job requirements. Referring to the discussion at the Nov. 20 meeting, the mayor said it was the first time he had seen City Council question and critique a city employee’s job performance in a Council meeting.