Commissioners repeal, delay Port board appointment

LISBON – A week after Keith Chamberlin was appointed to the Columbiana County Port Authority board, county commissioners found themselves in the awkward position of delaying his appointment until March 2.

Commissioners took action at Wednesday’s meeting to rescind their decision of Jan. 9 to appoint Chamberlin to the Port Authority. In the next motion, commissioners immediately reappointed the former Columbiana city manager to the position, effective March 2.

Commission Chairman Mike Halleck said after the meeting they became aware of a law that may preclude Chamberlin from immediately serving on the Port Authority for 60 days following his retirement as city manager, which took effect Dec. 31.

“It’s not necessarily a snafu,” he said.

Chamberlin retired as part of the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), which prohibits a government employee who retires and is scheduled to begin receiving benefits from taking another government position covered by PERS for at least 60 days. The Port Authority position pays $7,200 a year and is covered by PERS.

Halleck said it was Commissioner Jim Hoppel who learned there might be a problem with the Chamberlin appointment, but he declined to get into specifics.

“Mr. Hoppel, in the past week, brought to the board’s attention there might be an issue that we’re not going to address now, nor should it be addressed by us,” he said, adding that while issue that came to light did not involve Chamberlin, it could have an impact on his appointment because of the 60-day waiting period.

Halleck said Chamberlin checked with PERS, which recommended he delay taking the Port Authority appointment until the 60 days have passed, “and that’s why we did what we did today …. We want to err on the side of caution.”

Hoppel said he was under the impression a person in Chamberlin’s situation could either defer taking their PERS retirement or forgo a salary from the new position for 60 days, “but I found out you can’t do that.”

Chamberlin was chosen to replace Tim Weigle on the five-member Port Authority after Weigle resigned because of his election to the board of commissioners in the November election.

At the Jan. 9 meeting, commissioners also named former commissioner Penny Traina to replace long-time Port Authority member Steve Cooper, who had applied to be reappointed.

The Port Authority’s first meeting of the year is on Monday, and commissioners said the board will function without a fifth member until Chamberlin is able to assume his duties on March 2. The board meets monthly.