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Youngstown-Warren chamber members meet today to discuss future

The executive committee decided last month it would reinstall former chamber President Tom Humphries.

YOUNGSTOWN — The full Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber board is set to meet this afternoon for the first time after chamber leaders decided not to renew President James Dignan's contract.

The chamber’s executive committee decided last month it would instead reinstall former chamber President Tom Humphries.

Humphries told Mahoning Matters last week chamber leadership decided against keeping Dignan because they intend to move in “a different direction.”

But that direction is still unclear. Right now, Humphries said he’s still tying up the year’s administrative loose ends, expediting a 2020 budget and defining the chamber’s objectives for the new year.

Dignan previously told Mahoning Matters he’d planned for more governmental affairs or lobbying work. Humphries last week assured that won’t change.

“I have a fair amount of experience in that area as well — as well as James did — at both the state and federal level, because of my tenure here,” he said. “I know the players that are involved and I’ve worked with some of them personally, one-on-one.”

Chamber members declined to speak directly with Mahoning Matters about Dignan’s upcoming release, but many said they’re waiting to learn more about the chamber’s future at today’s meeting today at 2:30 p.m. at Aqua Ohio offices, 6650 South Ave., Boardman.

Many said they weren’t aware Dignan wouldn’t be returning until it was reported by Mahoning Matters and other local media outlets on Friday, Nov. 15.

But Humphries said uncertainty over whether Dignan would continue to helm the chamber took form much earlier — though it may have been “shared late.”

He added the chamber’s executive committee doesn’t need input from the full more-than 30-member board to make decisions to hire or fire the chamber’s CEO.

“Can you always do better? Absolutely. It’s not a perfect world,” he said. “Did we follow procedures? Yes. Could we improve them? Yes.”

State Sen. Sean O’Brien of Bazetta, D-32nd, said he and colleague Sen. Michael Rulli of Salem, R-33rd, have questions for Humphries about a recently secured state earmark for $600,000 in operational monies for the chamber’s Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, which both Humphries and Dignan helped create.

Humphries said last week he had not met directly with the senators, but a spending plan has not yet been devised.

He said the executive committee had not yet officially begun the search for a permanent CEO.

“I appreciate people’s concern [about the changes]. I’m glad they’re aware of what’s going on. … I can tell you I don’t foresee any significant change, especially in the work that was being done,” he said. “The people that are puzzled with what’s going on — I respect that. But it’s really a personnel matter between the CEO and the executive committee.

“I think it got played out in the media. Change takes places all the time … in all businesses.”

Justin Dennis

About the Author: Justin Dennis

Justin Dennis has been on the beat since 2011, covering crime, courts and public education. Dennis grew up in Poland and Salem and studied journalism and communications at Cleveland State University and University of Pittsburgh.
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