A visiting judge has ruled against former Belmont County Department of Employment and Family Services director and former county commissioner nominee Vince Gianangeli in a lawsuit he has sued the Belmont County Board of Commissioners in an attempt to get his old job back.
Gianangeli’s lawsuit argued that he should have been reinstated to his former position as tax affairs administrator for DJFS after he was fired in February 2020 by the board. He had held positions in the department since 2004.
In 2019, he retired as director and was rehired as director. This allowed him to dip into his pension, but he took a $30,000 cut from his annual salary as manager.
Gianangeli lost his post as director after “overriding a vote by the commissioners”, the board said in a statement. Gianangeli also issued a statement on the matter, saying that two commissioners had voted to fire an individual within the DJFS whose resignation had already been accepted by Gianangeli.
The case hinged on whether Gianangeli lost consideration for his reinstatement in the tax office when he retired as a director and was rehired.
The matter is covered by section 329.02 of the Ohio Revised Code, which states that “if a person holding a classified position in the department is appointed director on or after that date and is then removed by the board…the person so dismissed has the right to return to the position the person held in Classified Service immediately prior to being appointed Director.
On May 16, visiting judge Linton Lewis dismissed the case.
Kathleen M. Minahan, a Mazanec, Raskin & Ryder Co. attorney representing the county commissioners, had filed a motion for summary judgment in favor of the commissioners.
“We are very pleased that the court has found – as have the commissioners – that Mr. Gianangeli lost his fallback rights when he retired as director on April 20, 2019,” Minahan said. “I expect Mr Gianangeli to appeal, but I don’t expect a different outcome on appeal.
The judgment refers to Voltz v. Erie County, Pennsylvania, in 2015 when an Employment and Family Services employee was upgraded from a classified social worker to an assistant manager before being fired. Lewis wrote in his judgment that he found the situations similar.
Gianangeli’s attorney, Helen Robinson, said an appeal was likely. She added that Gianangeli’s situation had been a mutually satisfying benefit for the county.
“By retiring him, staying in the same job, it’s really helped the county because he’s earning a lower salary,” Robinson said. “The crux of the matter is that Mr. Gianangeli has worked for Employment and Family Services and for the state for years, and no question about his performance.
” He has taken his retirement. … There was no break in service, it was just a different status, but his work remained the same. … Then, for no reason, he was removed from his position, ”she said.