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Seven Hills law director suddenly retires; charter amendment relating to job heading to fall ballot


SEVEN HILLS, Ohio — Law Director Richard A. Pignatiello on Tuesday (June 14) announced his immediate retirement from the City of Seven Hills.

“For more than half my life, I served the residents, many administrations and many, many councils,” said Pignatiello, who served as Seven Hills’ law director since 1995.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege. At 65 years old, there are still things I would like to do and I want to make sure I have the time to do them.”

The announcement came at the same meeting where City Council voted to put a charter amendment on the fall ballot asking residents to approve changing the city’s elected law director position to a mayoral appointment.

“On one hand, his resignation was a surprise,” Mayor Anthony D. Biasiotta said. “On the other hand, he’s been law director for 27 years and 33 years total, including his time on council. Retirement is well deserved. I think he’s excited for the future.

“The law director didn’t give any specific reasons related to current events, but we can’t help but think council’s decision to pass an ordinance to put on a November ballot an issue to turn the position from an elected one to an appointed one potentially could have played into that decision.”

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While Pignatiello quietly served as the city’s law director for more than a quarter of a century, the last few years included him butting heads with council.

In 2019, the same law director-related charter amendment approved earlier this week received three readings but was never approved, due to council recusals and a procedural error.

Also during that time, Pignatiello, who would obviously be directly affected by a voter-approved charter amendment, accused various council members of violating Ohio’s Sunshine Law.

However, nothing ever came from the allegations, which appeared to be timed around a City Council vote on the issue.

Then earlier this year, council introduced an ordinance requiring the reporting of billable hours from the law department’s three employees — Pignatiello, Assistant Law Director/Prosecutor Patrick DiChiro and Assistant Law Director Christine Tobin — to council, submitted on a monthly basis.

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Its impetus was tied to sporadic submittals of billable hours by some in the law department.

“The timekeeping issue was tabled (Tuesday) night with the expectation of a more holistic review of department operations,” Biasiotta said.

In a related move, City Council approved the retention of Joseph W. Diemert & Associates, at $250 an hour, as special counsel to the city.

“Joe Diemert has been law director for 15 cities,” Biasiotta said. “As such, he has an exceptional amount of experience in municipal law departments. We’d like for him to take a look at our operation and make suggestions related to best practices.

“He’ll look at the makeup of the department in terms of the number of employees, employee responsibilities, job descriptions, compensation and how they all fit together. Ultimately from those best practices, council may enact a new ordinance or two to better serve the people of Seven Hills.”

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As for appointing a new law director to serve the remainder of Pignatiello’s term, which expires Dec. 10, 2023, the city will begin accepting applications from residents with municipal experience who have lived in Seven Hills for three years.

The mayor will appoint a replacement, who must be confirmed by City Council.

Neither Assistant Law Director/Prosecutor DiChiro nor Assistant Law Director Tobin call Seven Hills home.

“We thank Law Director Pignatiello for faithfully and dutifully serving the city for more than 30 years,” Biasiotta said. “We wish him and his family nothing but the best.”

Added City Council President Phillip Kiriazis: “I would like to congratulate former Law Director Richard Pignatiello on his retirement. It will be nice to see him enjoy more quality time with his family.”

Read more news from the Parma Sun Post.

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