Jan 12, 2024 - News

NOACA board delays CEO contract vote to investigate claims

Illustration of a manila folder opening like a door.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency's (NOACA) board of directors once again delayed a vote on the contract extension for CEO Grace Gallucci.

Driving the news: The board voted unanimously last Friday to refer the matter back to its executive committee in light of a recent letter by former unnamed employees who attributed high turnover and low morale at NOACA to Gallucci's leadership.

Why it matters: NOACA is the region's planning organization and disburses roughly $50 million each year across its five-county service area for transportation and infrastructure needs.

  • NOACA just received a $15 million federal grant for 176 electric vehicle charging stations in the region.

What happened: The board retreated to an executive session during Friday's meeting to discuss Gallucci's contract and returned to vote with no public discussion.

Catch up quick: Gallucci has led the organization since 2012. Her current contract expires in mid-2024.

  • The three-year extension, which was first scheduled for a vote in December, would give her a 5% raise and bring her salary to $291,679.

The intrigue: Signal Cleveland first reported on the anonymous letter, which was sent to board members this week.

  • Among other things, it criticized Gallucci's routine travel to Chicago, where her husband lives and where she teaches a class at Northwestern University.

The other side: "Many of the things that I'm hearing are actually not only just false, they're defamatory," Gallucci told Signal Cleveland.

  • "There is no doubt that I spend time in Chicago, but it is not impacting work at all."

The latest: During public comment at Friday's meeting, former employee Katie Moore, who now works for the city of Cleveland, spoke on behalf of the 22 signatories to the letter.

  • "We are bringing this information to you after exhausting all internal processes provided to staff," she told the board.
  • She highlighted special items of concern, including an organizational structure "that breeds inefficiency and mistrust," planning and reporting processes that lack oversight, and a senior management team that lacks accountability.

What's next: The board agreed that an independent third party should investigate the letter's claims.

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