In a special meeting Friday morning, Liberty Township trustees voted 2-1 to approve a resolution to hire Delaware County Emergency Medical Services Chief Michael Schuiling as the township’s new administrator.
Trustees Melanie Leneghan and Michael Gemperline voted together to approve the resolution along with his contract. Trustee Shyra Eichhorn wished Schuiling the “best of luck” but said she couldn’t approve of a contract that “isn’t fiscally conservative.” She voted no.
“There are clauses in it that are unheard of,” Eichhorn said. “Your administrator is an at-will employee. This contract is written up so that if we were to terminate it, the community would have to pay 12 months (of severance pay).”
Eichhorn also pointed out that the contract has built-in raises, which “is something that we have not done before.”
“It’s just not a fiscally conservative move,” she said. “I just can’t support it.”
The five-year contract affords Schuiling a salary of $95,000 with a two-percent increase upon successful completion of his first six months. Each year after, he is to receive an annual three-percent increase with no mention of merit pay or performance evaluations.
The Board of Trustees held special meetings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday that were strictly executive sessions to interview four candidates.
According to Eichhorn, the board only conducted a single round of interviews. However, Leneghan said if any of the trustees did have followup questions, they could contact the candidates directly.
After the vote, Leneghan thanked Schuiling for his interest and for accepting the position. She said the majority of the board saw him “clearly as the best candidate for the position that the board interviewed.”
“We’re excited about your expertise in public safety,” she said. “I for one feel that public safety is about the number one priority of this board and that pre-hospital care is a big deal in our community. I feel by bringing you on we’ve stabilized and strengthened that in our community. We look forward to your leadership. You were clearly far and away the strongest leader that we interviewed.”
“Yes, the contract is unusual and so is the situation,” stated Leneghan. “We recognize that to get the quality, the expertise, and the professionalism of someone like you in this volatile situation, where you’re leaving a position, that you needed some solid back up and you needed to know that you had a stable opportunity here. We’ve based that on the dynamics of our current team … you fit that perfectly.”
Leneghan did not elaborate on how the situation was unusual.
“The best thing is that you get to work with award-winning Liberty Township fire-based EMS that is phenomenal,” Eichhorn said. “That will work well and again you don’t have the township administrative experience like some of the other candidates did but I’m sure that that will come.”
Human Resource Manager Cathy Buehrer asked for a start date but Schuiling said he had not spoken with his current employers as of yet about the change in employment.
“I need to talk with my current employer and give two weeks notice,” he said. “I can start immediately after that.”
Leneghan pushed for an immediate start which would have been Friday, May 17. “So we’ll start immediately and see what becomes of it,” she said.
Schuiling said it wasn’t possible to start until he informed the county of his two-week notice. “I can’t work two jobs at the same time,” he said.
Leneghan finally decided to have Buehrer put Monday, May 20, as the start date. “If that changes then we can change it,” she said.
According to the township’s job description, the administrator must hold a bachelor degree in business administration, public administration, management science or related field and five years minimum of professional work experience in state, county or local government or equivalent combination and/or experience.
However, according to records obtained from Delaware County by Nico Franano, Save Our Services, Schuiling’s 2013 resume shows that “he still hasn’t received a college degree … just a high school diploma,” he said.
“This is mismanagement and poor leadership bordering on incompetence,” Franano said. “This township deserves so much better.”
Leneghan was asked about the lack of a college degree.
“If you look at Mr. Schuiling’s experience it far exceeds any bachelors or masters degree,” she said. “I will tell you as a business professional … I would much prefer someone with the traits, the characteristics of Mr. Schuiling than somebody with 10 degrees without those traits and characteristics.”
There is concern among the residents that Schuiling was being hand-picked for the job by Leneghan and Gemperline.
“I was delighted that he applied for the job,” Leneghan said. “But I didn’t hand-pick Mike, I didn’t even know he had applied for this job.”
After the meeting, Eichhorn made a brief comment about the meeting and situation.
“The administrator role for Liberty Township, one of the largest townships in Ohio, is quite complex,” she said. “One of the most crucial pieces is economic development. We need to pursue smart development, be proactive for projects we want and not be reactive to projects we don’t. I was pushing for a candidate that could hit the ground running with an enormous amount of experience/results in that area. In fact one candidate possessed experience in all the departments that he would have been overseeing. I do hope that Schuiling is successful, but there will be quite a learning curve.”
Contact D. Anthony Botkin at 740-413-0902. Follow him on Twitter @dabotkin.