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Former fire chief drops overtime request to $7,500

Risko had sought $60,000

By BRIANA BARKER Reporter Published: March 22, 2017 12:00 AM
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Although he had been asking the townships for $60,000 in back overtime pay, former Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District Chief Frank Risko is offering to settle for $7,500.

An email dated March 8 from Barry Freeman, of Buckingham, Doolittle and Burroughs, LLC, was sent to attorneys for the townships' former Fire District Jeff Snell and Michael Harvey in which Freeman said he intends to file a claim in court if the townships don't settle.

"Against my better judgement, Chief Risko wants to take one more stab at settlement before I file. Demand is $7,500," Freeman wrote.

The email states the townships need to advise Freeman by March 17 if they are interested in a settlement. It was unclear March 20 whether a settlement had been reached.

Sagamore Hills Trustee Paul Schweikert said March 16 he and fellow Trustee John Zaccardelli discussed the matter during a March 13 Trustee meeting, during which Trustee Dave DePasquale was absent.

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"I pointed out that I have talked to the auditor and the prosecutor and they both told me it is illegal to compensate for undocumented time," Schweikert said. "Plus he [Risko] was the guy in charge of the hours, and in all of our fire board meetings not once did he ever say anything about this."

Snell told the News Leader March 17 that in addition to allegedly not telling Trustees that he was working overtime, Snell said he and Risko in April 2015 agreed that department members' overtime should be limited to 106 hours.

"Not only did we talk about it, but he wrote to the firefighters that no one was to work more than 106 hours without his approval," Snell said.

Snell said that prior to Risko making his $60,000 demand for unpaid overtime, the district has already compensated Risko $1,500 for overtime he had claimed as the district was being dissolved. He said that as far as he knows, the $1,500 check had not been cashed.

Risko initially demanded a payment of $60,000 for 1,820 overtime hours, which his attorney calls "conservative" in a Nov. 29, 2016, letter to township attorneys. The overtime is based on a claim that Risko worked 2 to 3 hours every day off the clock, for 130 weeks. The $60,000 was calculated based on an overtime rate of $33 per hour, according to Freeman's letter.

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Schweikert said since the dissolution of the fire district, former fire board members have not met to discuss Risko's demand.

Sagamore Hills Trustees said at their March 13 meeting they plan to wait for Risko's next move.

Phone calls to Risko, Harvey, and Freeman were not returned by press time March 20.

Northfield Center Trustee Rich Reville did not return messages seeking comment by press time.

Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher said March 16 he had no comment until the trustees had a chance to discuss the matter with attorneys.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432

Email: bbarker@recordpub.com


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