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Council hearing on Civil Service chief delayed

City Council officials have rescheduled a special meeting to consider the fate of suspended Civil Service Chairman Michael Ubaldi for next Tuesday.

Council officials had initially set a special meeting about the dispute between Mayor Kevin Kennedy’s administration and Ubaldi for March 10. A super majority of at least a 5-2 margin would be required to remove Ubaldi; however, Ubaldi sought a continuance to give himself and his attorney, Jay R. Carson, additional time to consider how to present his side of the dispute on how the Civil Service chief has handled his post.

“When we’ve had potential layoffs involved with the Civil Service Commission, we’ve had at least a month’s notice,” Ubaldi said. “I just had a few days from when I was notified of the suspension to the initial date of the meeting. Although I believe that I have acted properly and that we could have presented my case, we felt it best to seek additional time to do so.”

Kennedy and Law Director Michael Gareau Jr. are alleging Ubaldi has committed malfeasance and misfeasance in office. In a legal opinion issued earlier this month, Gareau contends Ubaldi exceeded his jurisdiction and authority in leading the Civil Service into setting a date for a new police chief’s exam to replace the retiring Wayne Wozniak.

Gareau said Ubaldi ignored repeated advice by Assistant Law Director Bryan O’Malley that a test date could not be set until a specific retirement date was tendered by Wozniak. A previous letter by Wozniak establishing a time window of late April to early May was not enough, and having a chief’s test set with only that could leave the city open to lawsuits and other potential actions by chief’s candidates.

Ubaldi, in turn, contends he has followed proper state and city civil service guidelines in setting the test date and then attempting to post it. He said the earlier information was sufficient to merit setting a test date, adding that common sense would have the Civil Service Commission begin the process of preparing to replace Wozniak. He also has noted that it’s possible that his objections to an administration-backed charter review proposal that failed at the polls last year, as well as his opposition to administration plans to possible chief’s candidates from outside the North Olmsted Police Department, have prompted Kennedy to try and oust him. Kennedy has disputed those allegations, reiterating allegations that Ubaldi exceeded his authority in trying to set the test date.

Gareau said Saturday the administration has no problem with the continuance.

“That’s well within guidelines and procedure for this type of matter,” he said. “It’s not uncommon in this type of case for someone to seek and be granted a continuance. We’ll be ready to proceed on the 22nd.”

City Council President Duane Limpert said granting the continuance was appropriate.

“Considering the seriousness of the matter, we felt it reasonable to grant the request by Mr. Ubaldi to seek adequate time to prepare himself for presenting his side of this,” Limpert said.

Wozniak, who just returned from a vacation, said his intention was never to cause problems when he began the process of preparing for his retirement.

“I never anticipated anything like this,” he said. “My intent has been to set up an orderly procedure where we could set up the process and have an orderly line of succession in the department where I could work with the new chief before I leave.”

Lt. Mike Kilbane, who represents the city police supervisor’s union and is a candidate for the chief’s post, said officers want a fair process in selecting a chief.

“All we’ve sought is a level playing field,” he said. “We’re looking for a process which will help us have an orderly process in determining the succession of the current chief.”

Fire Union President Dave Boatman said that group is monitoring the situation.

“We’re not involved directly, but we are affected by Civil Service,” he said. “We’ve always found Ubaldi to be fair. We haven’t agreed with every decision he’s made, but we’ve found him to be thorough and fair in how he considers everything. We hope for a fair resolution to this matter.”

 

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