Three Senior Managers Axed in Reorganization
September 16, 2014

Three senior female managers, two of whom have more than 15 years experience at Geauga Park District, were terminated at the conclusion of the Sept. 9 park board meeting.

Three senior female managers, two of whom have more than 15 years experience at Geauga Park District, were terminated at the conclusion of the Sept. 9 park board meeting.

Out of a job are Emilie Gottsegen, park district development director, Paige Orvis, marketing and administrative services director, and Eileen Smith, administrative services coordinator.

Interim Director John Oros informed all three of their layoffs the next morning.

“Ever since the work session on Feb. 11, it’s been clear that some type of reorganization and reallocation of resources was necessary for the district to move forward,” park district Commissioner Lou Mucci said following an executive session, held after the regular open meeting last Tuesday night.

He then made a motion to adopt the recommendations Oros made regarding the reallocation of resources and the restructuring of the park district.

Commissioner Mary Ruth Shumway seconded the motion.

Commissioner Brian Johnston said he would vote against Oros’ recommendations for two reasons. First, he said he did not have enough information.

And second, “unless it’s economically driven, I’m not in favor of it at this time,” Johnston said.

Mucci’s motion passed, 2-1.

The Geauga County Maple Leaf learned that Geauga County Probate Court Constable John Ralph sat in on at least some of the Sept. 9 executive session during which the layoffs were discussed.

Ralph was appointed a liaison to the park board in February, after Mucci and Shumway asked Judge Tim Grendell to appoint one.

The Maple Leaf emailed Oros and asked on what authority Ralph attending the closed meeting. Oros answered, “I suggest you contact the court.”

An email requesting comment on the issue from Shumway, who is the park board president, was not replied to prior to Tuesday’s deadline.

Shumway did reply to another email Tuesday indicating she did not “direct the structure,” but that it was the “director levels” who submitted their opinion of the best organizational structure for the park district.

“Any position eliminated had nothing to do with performance nor was it in any way budget driven,” she added. “In February, when I asked director levels to give me their opinion on park topics, they told me they were surprised as it had not been asked previously and that they were directed from the former park leadership.”

Shumway also indicated the park district has seen a 66 percent increase in participation for park programs this year.

“As a park system, we are providing the same opportunities for our visitors, if not more, at the same level of professionalism,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, Mucci explained the entire reorganization flowed from that February work session.

“Believe it or not, the director-level leaders all said they had not had that type of discussion and idea sharing before. They were always ‘directed’ what to do and feedback between departments and the executive director was limited and discouraged,” Mucci said.

He said the staff drove the reorganization and all director-level leaders submitted an “ideal” organizational structure.

“John Oros led the evaluations and made the final decisions with input from the staff,” added Mucci.

The park commission also explained the board inherited a budget that contained only about 3 percent dedicated to the Natural Resource Management department. That percentage needed to increase because of the park district’s mission of protect, preserve and conserve, he said.

Mucci also noted the board was able to cut $1.9 million in spending this year without cutting programs.

No further staff reductions are expected, he said.

Said Shumway, however, “I will not promise a job guarantee to anyone.”

According to the Reorganization _ Reduction in Work Force Plan, the park board was considering a reorganization/ RIF and requested Oros to present options.

Oros recommended a reorganization/RIF based on the following “agency inadequacies:”

  • Inefficiency.
  • Lack of definition in structural hierarchy.
  • Lack of leadership accountability and direct lines of authority.
  • Redundancy and repeatability of job duties across the same and/or similar positions.
  • Non-essential positions.
  • Unbalance in Mission Focus

To address those inadequacies, Oros recommended, among other things, a reallocation of personnel to reduce inefficiencies, or restructuring, and an elimination of unneeded positions.

“The basis for the reorganization/ reduction in work force has been defined as the reallocation of assets from employment positions which may be duplicative and/or unneeded to benefit our constituents, that is the Geauga County public who use the park district,” Oros wrote.

All department heads were involved in the restructuring plan, he indicated.

Oros also noted the development, maintenance and security of parks showed tangible benefits to park users.

“In addition, the people we serve through our dynamic park programs take place in a predominant park setting in direct contact with people,” he said. “The security and safety of parks and park infrastructure is paramount. The maintenance of infrastructure and development of new infrastructure is expected by our users.

“On the other hand, the roles played by administrative and marketing support staff are duplicative and current outcomes can be achieved with fewer numbers of staff.”

In late February, the park board also received a controversial assessment of the park district’s leadership team. The 18-page report prepared by O’Brien Leadership Systems concluded “reducing the bloated payroll and overall expenditures” was a must at the park district.

The report’s author, Linda O’Brien, was one of the original 45 candidates to express interest in being appointed to the park board.

Two weeks after Mucci and Shumway were appointed to the board in late January, they approved a $16,000 non-competitive contract to O’Brien’s company.

The contract called for individual two-hour interviews for 10 park district directors. Rather than having payment dispersed to her business, the check was paid directly to Linda J. O’Brien.

O’Brien filed as a write-in candidate for the Ohio House of Representatives 76th District Feb. 7. The contract was approved Feb. 11, but made retroactive to Feb. 3, which preceded the filing of her candidacy. This was done in executive session.