UPDATE - New contract in works for Dr. Dee?

The board that oversees Christie Lane is planning to offer its superintendent a new contract to avoid controversy over an unusual severance package. Dr. Dee Zeffiro-Krenisky's contract is valid from 2004 through 2008, but it contains a clause that promises to pay the superintendent half of her salary if she is not rehired for the following four years. Those four years take her up to the date she is eligible for retirement. State law prohibits Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MRDD) boards from contracts longer than five years for management personnel. Zeffiro-Krenisky, whose base salary this year is slightly less than $100,000, said she never suggested the clause. "They asked when I thought I would be eligible for retirement and it would be 2012,' she said this afternoon, adding that the board or the board's attorney must have come up with the idea for the clause.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

The board that oversees Christie Lane is planning to offer its superintendent a new contract to avoid controversy over an unusual severance package.

Dr. Dee Zeffiro-Krenisky’s contract is valid from 2004 through 2008, but it contains a clause that promises to pay the superintendent half of her salary if she is not rehired for the following four years. Those four years take her up to the date she is eligible for retirement.

State law prohibits Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities (MRDD) boards from contracts longer than five years for management personnel.

Zeffiro-Krenisky, whose base salary this year is slightly less than $100,000, said she never suggested the clause. “They asked when I thought I would be eligible for retirement and it would be 2012,” she said this afternoon, adding that the board or the board’s attorney must have come up with the idea for the clause.

She said the contract was drafted by a lawyer with Blaugrund, Herbert and Martin, a Columbus law firm. The prosecutor’s office reviewed and approved the contract, which was drafted in 2003.

When asked if such a severance package was fair to taxpayers, Zeffiro-Krenisky refused to comment.

The Rev. Fred Weichers, a current MRDD board member, said he was unaware of the contract’s clause. “I’m not sure how it got in there. We don’t know how the prosecutor let that get through,” he said. “We’re going to be offering her another contract.”

After Jan. 1, the board can offer Zeffiro-Krenisky a five-year contract that would keep her at Christie Lane until she retires.

Former board member Lillian Kirkpatrick, who served as president in 2003, said the severance package was not an attempt to bypass the five-year contract limit set by state law. “Over the years, we’ve had a lot of problems with superintendents and we finally got one that was doing a fabulous job and we wanted to keep her around as long as possible,” she said.

Kirkpatrick said everyone on the board knew about the clause. “The whole board was aware of anything that went into her contract,” she said.

Former Christie Lane employee Lysa Cook and her husband, David,questioned Zeffiro-Krenisky’s contract after comparing it to those for others superintendents in Ohio. After checking more than 40 contracts, David Cook said he found no others with severance packages for superintendents. He spoke about his concerns at the Huron County Commissioners meeting this morning.

Lysa Cook was not rehired after her five-year contract with Christie Lane expired in August. She contends the non-renewal came as a result of her reporting possible abuse of a student by a teacher who is a close friend of Zeffiro-Krenisky. The superintendent would not comment on her reason for Cook not being retained.

Zeffiro-Krenisky’s contract contained another clause that was changed this year on the advice of the Huron County Auditor’s office. The original contract included an investment package that paid $500 per month directly into an investment account for Zeffiro-Krenisky. 

Beginning Jan. 1, the investment package was eliminated and her salary was raised $6,000. That brings her base salary up to $99,143 for 2007. 

She explained that this clause was added to her contract because she agreed to take on the additional duty of direct supervisor for the school staff. She said the board suggested the investment package after Patrick Murray retired as supervisor of school staff and she agreed to take on some of his duties.

Another perk in Zeffiro-Krenisky’s contract adds up to another 9.5 percent or $9,418 savings for her because the board pays her employee contribution to the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

All government employees may enroll in PERS. The system requires the employer, in Zeffiro-Krenisky’s case the county and its taxpayers, to pay 13.85 percent of the employee’s salary into a retirement account. Typically, another 9.5 percent is automatically deducted from the employee’s pay to add to the account. Zeffiro-Krenisky gets to keep her money since the board pays her share.

But Zeffiro-Krenisky is not the only county employee who receives this perk. The MRDD board also pays both employer and employee contributions for Allyn Schnellinger, business manager for Christie Lane. The board pays 4.25 percent of the employee PERS contribution for all other Christie Lane employees.

Dennis Steiber, who works for the county auditor, said Huron County picks up the 9.5 percent for all health department employees and also pays the entire amount for Jean King and Roger Wilkinson, employees the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) board.

The amount the county pays will increase again next year as the state is raising the rates to the maximum of 10 percent for the employee and 14 percent for the employer.

Zeffiro-Krenisky also has vacation and sick day allowances that can add up to cash. She receives five weeks of vacation and is allowed 15 days of sick leave each year. She has no limit on the amount of sick leave she can accumulate and, on retirement, can cash in those sick days for one-half of their value.

She can also cash in up to two weeks of vacation days each year for a rate based on her salary at the time. Zeffiro-Krenisky cashed in two weeks in 2006 for $3,456. If she cashes in two week this year, she would get another $3,582.

In the last three years of her severance package - 2010 to 2012 - Zeffiro-Krenisky will be able to cash out more unused vacation time.

Based on her current contract, Zeffiro-Krenisky will earn $113,000 in base pay in 2012. She will still not have to pay her portion of retirement, saving herself $11,300. She also will be able to trade up to 9.5 weeks of accumulated vacation time for $9,259 and can get full value from any unused vacation time for the final three years of the contract.

Comments

k.e. wolfe (Ano...

WOW! no wonder they cant afford to serve a hot lunch at the workshop. I never did get a real answer to that question 2 years ago

David Cook (Ano...

The text of my public comments to the Huron County Commissioners will follow. Before you read it please consider these comments --- My brother has attended Christie Lane for over 40 years, and Christie Lane has done much good work through the years. Christie Lane provides vital and necessary services to people with varied needs. The direct support staff are dedicated, hard working, caring people. They care for some individuals with challenging behaviors in difficult situations. The Recreation Department and the self-advocacy group are shining examples to the rest of the state. Please remember the needs of the individuals receiving services, and be supportive of the direct support staff. This story is not first a story about alleged abuse. I do not know the details of the investigation report because it is sealed in a convoluted view that absolute openness is not always best. I believe the reporting was not conducted properly and the cost to my wife for following the reporting law high. Further, I believe that the proper handling of complaints protects both the disabled, and the staff. My evidence that the complaint was not handled correctly is an email from then ODMRDD Director Ritchey stating corrective recommendations were sent to Superintendent Zeffiro-Krenisky, and also stating that ODMRDD has no oversight of employment issues. Finally, I also made comments concerning the Board Chairs and possible conflicts of interest. Ohio law requires that at least 3 Board members have families eligible for services. It is a good thing to have family members of those receiving services on the Board. It is just not a good thing to have them in the powerful position of Board Chair where conflicts appear possible.--- The real issue that needs to be reviewed is the Superintendent’s use of power, and the Board’s oversight of that power. This is fundamentally an issue of how the oligarchy behaves towards the powerless.-------12-06-07
Public Comments to Huron County Commissioners--

My brother has attended Christie Lane for over 40 years. I have been trying to review Christie Lane operations for about a year and half.

ORC 5126.0226 limits the Superintendent’s contract to 5 years in length. However, Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky’s contract has a clause that states she must be paid as damages over $200,000.00 if the contract is not automatically renewed for 4 more years.

I have evaluated 44 contracts from other County Boards and I have seen no other Superintendent’s contract like Huron County’s.

Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky’s unusual contract prompts concerns for me about a possible Chapter 102 conflict of interest issues since the Board Chairs from 1997 to present have had family members who receive services through Christie Lane.

Additionally, it has been purported that the Superintendent has been involved in forwarding names to the Commissioners which they then select as Christie Lane Board members to oversee her management.

I have seen through experience that Christie Lane Board members do not have a thorough understanding of their own policy, ORC 5126 which organizes county boards, or ORC 121.22 Ohio Public Meetings Act. But, I do not know how the Board members are nominated for their positions.

This prompted me to make a polite, quiet request to the County Commissioners in writing asking you to explain the process of Christie Lane Board nominations. You responded to that request by saying, “The Board has no public records responsive to your request.”

I responded back to that statement with the following letter by certified mail:

Mike Adelman
Ralph Fegley
Gary Bauer
Huron County Commissioners
180 Milan Ave
Norwalk, OH 44857

July 18, 2007

RE: Response to your July 5, 2007 letter--

Dear Commissioners,

I am in receipt of your July 5, 2007 letter sent in response to my request for information concerning the nominating process for Members of the Huron County Board MR/DD.

I was not making a public record request to you under the Ohio Public Records Act, as I assumed you would have no actual record.

I was, however, asking elected officials for information concerning the nominating process of a public board for which the County Commissioners are the appointing authority for five of seven members.

The Huron County Board of MR/DD oversees the management of Christie Lane School and Workshop, as well as Medicaid HCBS waivers for other providers in the county, and the use of local levy dollars. Surely the nominating process of Board Members is an issue of public interest, importance, and domain.

Unfortunately it is also of personal importance to me as the Huron County Board MR/DD is the only oversight authority regulating Superintendent Dr. Dee Zeffiro-Krenisky’s treatment of contract employees at Christie Lane.

I must therefore repeat my request for information concerning the nominating process for the Huron County Board MR/DD and point out that inclusive in the definition of “public” is openness. Voters should consider moving any public official not committed to public openness to the private sector.

Sincerely,
David Cook--

You again responded that there were no records responsive to my request, even though I stated specifically that I was not seeking records, but was asking elected officials for information about a public board that spends tax payer money.

The biggest problem I have in trying to evaluate Christie Lane management is that everywhere I ask for information I’m told the information is confidential, that information does not need to be provided, or there are “no public records responsive to your request.”

This elected body declined to provide information on the selection of Christie Lane board members just like the Christie Lane Board declined to meet face to face with my wife and I, or to appoint an independent fact finder to resolve concerns of Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky’s use of her power.

You acted as if you agreed with Board Chair DeEtte Zimmerman when she wrote about Lysa’s employment in the Christie Lane Board’s last letter, “While you might want to meet with the Board or engage in some further investigation, no such action is required by policy… The fact is the Board has not taken any action with respect to your employment contract,” and “with respect to the grievance the decision lies with me… The law does not require that the Superintendent state the reasons for such notice of non-renewal.”

Both this elected body and the Christie Lane Board seem unconcerned with how Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky treats employees at Christie Lane. With that lack of concern and oversight, Christie Lane badly needs a union.

Please comment on why, as elected officials, you did not provide information on how you select the Christie Lane Board members for which you are appointing authority.

David Cook
721 Cook Rd.
Wakeman, OH 44889

what's the prob...

So, if Christie Lane has done a great job, including 40 years for Cook's brother, what's the beef? Oh, wait a minute. He has another family member that didn't get a job/contract renewed. How typical. Another self-serving blame game.

Kizor_Sozae (An...

btw, kudos to the author of this article....very precise, to the point and informative...thanks for all the information.

To David Cook (...

Why are you fighting your wife's battles?

Buba (Anonymous)

Maybe he likes his wife. I met her once and she seemed like a nice lady.

David Cook (Ano...

I said that Christie Lane provides important services and needs to be supported, but that management needs to be reviewed. Perhaps I would have no Beef, if Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky had ever been willing to explain why my wife was removed from the SSA Director position or non-renewed. I had a difficult time when Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky placed in writing that my wife had never been hired as SSA Director and when Board Chair DeEtte Zimmerman denied a grievance filing extension while my wife was in the hospital. It was not pleasant to watch my wife leave the hospital after knee replacement surgery and to stop taking her pain medication, so she could be awake long enough to write the grievance by the filing deadline. The memory of the sweat pouring off her and her moans as she worked at the computer is still vivid. Perhaps if DeEtte Zimmerman had not then ruled my wife had in fact been hired as SSA Director but provided a contract with an expired date to sign which would have allowed for my wife's removal on 10/19/06 instead of 8/19/07 provided we were stupid enough to sign it, I wouldn't think I have a beef. --- I wrote to multiple state agencies for help and was told by all that as organized under ORC 5126 the Christie Lane Board is an autonomous agency in which the board members have the sole oversight to review Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky's actions concerning contract employee treatment--- Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky put in writing, " I am the person that takes personnel actions regarding employees of the HCBMRDD. With respect to non-renewals of employees, the members of the HCBMRDD really have no authority under the law." and Board Member Pasator Weicher said on the taped minutes in a Board meeting that the Board had taken no action.--- I was pretty sure I had a beef. ---Here is a short explanation of why I believe Dr. Zeffiro-Krenisky's statement is blind arrogance and Pastor Weichers' is manifestly ignorant--- Dr. Zeffiro-Kreniky has repeatedly claimed the Board has no power in personnel decisions other than their appointment of her as Superintendent, and then she makes all other personnel decisions. The Board has accepted this as fact. Her most succinct statement in this regard is in a response to a Public Records Request, in a letter dated September 11, 2007 and is as follows: ---"As appointing authority for the employees of the HCBMRDD, I am the person that takes personnel actions regarding employees of the HCBMRDD. With respect to non-renewal of employees, the members of the HCBMRDD really have no authority under the law. As you know, the members of the HCBMRDD have taken no action with respect to your wife's non-renewal.---

My explanation of why this is not a valid claim is the following:---

ORC 5126.0226 Superintendent, states the Board "shall either employ a superintendent or obtain the services of a superintendent" and that "the board shall prescribe the duties of the superintendent" and review the superintendent's performance".---

ORC 5126.0227 Superintendent of county boards- powers and duties, lists the powers delegated to the Superintendent. These powers are delegated by the Board and do not exist in absentia of the Board. One of the listed powers of the Superintendent in paragraph (C) is: "approve contracts of employment for management employees that are for a term of one year or less".---

ORC 5126.05 County Board Powers and Duties, describes the authority and powers of the Board and in Paragraph (7) includes: "approve contracts of employment for management employees that are for a term of more than one year".---

The Board has the authority to approve contracts for five years, but the law limits the authority that can be delegated to the Superintendent to the approval of contracts for one year or less. Clearly it is the Board's authority and responsibility to approve contracts and not the Superintendent's.---

Collectively the seven voting members of the Board exercise the Board's power. The Superintendent, as a non-voting officer of the Board, has no power but that delegated to her by the voting members, and the law clearly does not allow the Board to delegate all its authority concerning contracts. The Superintendent's delegated power to approve contracts for one year or less cannot supersede or negate the Board's power to approve contracts for up to five years.---

Further, for the claim that the Board has no power and did not act to be credible, there would be no reason for the Board to go into executive session for personnel reasons except to consider the Superintendent's contract, her discipline, or her removal. However, the Board went into executive session in several meetings during the periods that coincided with Lysa Cook's removal from SSA Director and eventual non-renewal.---

Board Policy 2.6 (D) Executive Session actually uses the term "personnel actions under jurisdiction of the board". It is logically impossible for the Board to claim it did not act on personnel issues under its jurisdiction, but such was the Board"s claim.---

ORC 121.22 Meeting of Public Bodies, states in (G)(1) executive session can be called "to consider the appointment, employment, dismissal, discipline, promotion, demotion, or compensation, of a public employee or official, or the investigation of charges and complaints against a public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual, unless the public employee, official, licensee, or regulated individual requests a public hearing�;If a public body holds an executive session pursuant to division (G)(1) of this section, the motion and vote to hold that executive session shall state which one or more of the approved purposes listed in division (G)(1) of this section are the purposes for which the executive session is to be held".---

When the Board went into executive session for personnel reasons, it was for issues the Board members were responsible for and acting on, or the Board was breaking the law and the sessions were an attempt to go off the Public Record to avoid accountability.---

As a point aside, the Board did not state the approved purposes in division (G)(1) in its motions and often gave no reason at all for executive sessions.---I invite people to evaluate everyone's claims as the story continues to unfold and to decide what seems credible to them.

Kizor_Sozae (An...

Good luck to you and your wife...it is about time someone took Dr. Dee to task!

Alternate Unive...

When did it become wrong here to fight alongside your wife?

in-"credible" (...

Break out the Bud Light. Time to throw a pity party!

Old farmer (Ano...

In-"credible" is correct. An appeal to pity is a fallacious argument. So also is the argument that because Dr. Dee is popular with some people, she should not be held accountable for allowing one of her employees to be treated shabbily. As I understand, the request for a grievance filing extension was made before Ms. Cook’s operation. The board chair waited as long as possible to rule against the extension. The board chair apparently delayed her denial of the request until after the operation. Possibly she thought that Mrs. Cook would be unable to write the grievance while recovering from surgery. Who knows what someone who disregards the pain of others is thinking. I wonder if a willingness to disregard the pain of others is something that a leader who is doing a good job does.

Also, I am not certain that David Cook was making an appeal to pity argument. He give a number of appeal to law arguments. Cynicism is generaly a poor response to reasoned arguments.

I question Comm...

Commissioners, respond to the requests being made of you. I am insulted by your lack of compliance. If any of the 3 of you do not want the public to see or know information you just blow them off with some lame excuse. What are you trying so hard to hide?

Frank (Anonymous)

Damn!! Don't curse UNIONS! This S*** breaks the working folks . It way over do for a DIET. Sure like to see people at the top take a pay cut or freeze. Maybe our county can force overweight people to lose weight to help defray the high cost of insurance.