Orange Township’s Parks and Maintenance director caught officials off guard Friday, Aug. 10, by submitting her resignation that at one point states, “due to the constructive discharge tactics and the hostile work environment of Orange Township.”
“The resignation took me by surprise,” said Trustee Debbie Taranto. “Beth Hugh has done a great job for the township over the years, and I will miss her knowledge and passion for the township.”
According to reports from officials and others she has worked with, Hugh was instrumental in moving the township forward by writing grants, the construction of parks, the U.S. Route 23 walking bridge, the Alum Creek Spillway bridge and the construction of many trails.
“It is with great personal regret that I submit my resignation, which has been necessitated due to the constructive discharge tactics and the hostile work environment of Orange Township management,” states Hugh in her resignation letter. “I have had (a) great passion for my work and accomplishments at Orange Township as the Maintenance and Parks Director. I have enjoyed educating the residents; I am proud of my teams successful grants, construction of 16 (plus) miles of trials and bridges; multiple park projects; multiple road improvement and expansion projects and the community center efforts. I am leaving a strong team which I have really enjoyed working with sharing ideas, challenges and accomplishments.”
Hugh could not be reached for comment on her resignation.
“She is on a scheduled vacation,” said Amanda Sheterom, Orange Township human resource manager.
Former trustee Rob Quigley said he has watched over the years the harassment Hugh has taken from Trustee Lisa Knapp. He said that Knapp has called Hugh “Beth Huge” on her blog, and embarrassed her in public meetings when Hugh was emotional.
“It’s well known that Trustee Knapp had been targeting her,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s come to this. Beth has done a lot of good things for the township. (However), this is status quo until Knapp gets rid of everyone she doesn’t like. It has been personal from day one for Lisa Knapp since she was confronted for padding her timecard as zoning secretary.”
In a July 2017 trustee meeting, Lee Bodnar, administrator, reported that there have been 50 miles of new residential roads added to the township in the last 10 years.
“All those roads will deteriorate at the same rate,” he said. “The cost will be too heavy for the township to maintain all of the roads.”
It was Hugh who suggested reducing the 1.5-mill park levy renewal to 1 mill and applying the other 0.5 mill to a new levy for road improvements.
“We’ve been successful in getting (park) grants,” she said. “We’re saving money.”
“Yes she did,” said Taranto. “She was very successful at obtaining grants, which allowed our parks levy to go further.”
Knapp said she had no idea and was shocked when she heard Hugh had tendered her resignation.
Knapp was asked what Hugh meant in her resignation by “constructive discharge tactics and the hostile work environment.”
“I don’t know what she means by that,” Knapp said.
The only reason Knapp could think of was earlier in the year trustees approved the posting of a new position, Director of Operations. The job description mimicks closely Hugh’s job description of Parks and Maintenance director.
The Director of Operations position description as posted: “This position is responsible for directing the operations of the Maintenance and Parks Department.”
Hugh’s job description as Parks and Maintenance director reads: “This individual is responsible for managing the operations of the Maintenance and Park Departments… .”
Knapp said ever since that time, Hugh’s attitude had changed.
“Stuff wasn’t getting done,” she said. “We wanted to split off things to help her manage. There are too many things in one department. We want to hire someone to help, and she doesn’t want it.”
Knapp said the Director of Operations position requires a degree and that the person who fills the position would become Hugh’s supervisor.
Trustee Ryan Rivers said, “It’s a separate job, nothing doing with her. It didn’t affect her or pay rate,” he said. “She is free to apply.”
Knapp said that the new position encompassed a little more than what is listed in Hugh’s job description. She said it would include Scott Overturf’s duties.
Overturf, an independent subcontractor who owns RPO, was acting as the township’s representative on construction projects. He also wrote grants alongside of Hugh, saving the taxpayers money, but still giving them the parks and trails they now enjoy.
Barrett Ault, Parks Board chair, said Hugh and Overturf have allowed the township to win millions of dollars in grants for parks and roads projects.
“Beth was an amazing addition to Orange Township and the parks department,” she said. “Beth had so much pride for the township as if she lived here herself. It is sad to think that the atmosphere and turmoil within the township offices have created such a horrible work environment that employees no longer have the desire to work here. There is no one else within the township that knows the process like Beth. It is a sad state to think about what will come of the parks board and parks department now for Orange Township. Her hard work and dedication will be greatly missed.”
According to spreadsheets supplied by Hugh earlier this year, the township has been awarded over $5 million in grants to build trails, parks and roads since Hugh was hired by the township May 2009.
Overturf said he has worked on 30 to 40 projects for the township like the design and construction of Orange Park, the walking bridge over U.S. Route 23 and several other smaller projects.
“I’ve been there since the parks department had started,” he said.
As for Hugh’s resignation, Overturf said, “I don’t know much about it until I talk to Beth,” he said.
Aaron James, roads maintenance supervisor, said he has known Hugh since being hired as part of her team at the township. He said that he, like others, was caught off guard by Hugh’s sudden submittal of her resignation.
“I couldn’t ask for a better person to work under,” he said. “I wish she would stay because there is a lot more to do for the township. I’m going to miss her. I think she did a great job.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.