Beachwood City Council approved a settlement May 16 “in a total amount not to exceed $20,880” for Jill Koslen-Freireich, the founder and 40-year director of Beachwood Theater Camp, who was dismissed and reinstated after a public outcry.
As a condition of the settlement and contained as a clause in it, Koslen-Freireich “releases, settles and forever discharges the city of Beachwood,” and may not sue the city, “its past and present officials, directors, officers, independent contractors, agents, insurers, attorneys “ or any other party associated with the city of Beachwood.
Koslen-Freireich was terminated April 19 by Derek Schroeder, community services director, with the support of Mayor Justin Berns. Every city council member called Berns and pleaded with him to reconsider prior to a May 2 council meeting, at which about 15 people spoke.
Berns reversed his decision May 4, reaching out to Koslen-Freireich to ask her to lead the camp in 2022.
Beachwood resident Melvin R. Ginsberg, who said his granddaughter is a camper, vilified the city for terminating Koslen-Freireich at the May 16 council meeting. “If you couldn’t terminate her in January, February, March, why couldn’t you terminate her in September and let her run the camp one more year?” Ginsberg said during the public comment period. “That was just incompetence and an insult to the community. If your community services director, who I guess you’d recently hired, I don’t know, maybe he needs to be terminated. This can’t happen again. Because I think if that happens again, you’ll be a one-term mayor.” The reference, to Berns, who was elected in November, 2021.
Ginsberg predicted that the camp would have lost enrollment in the intervening period, including his own granddaughter.
In a text message statement to the Cleveland Jewish News May 17 through a spokeswoman, Berns backed Schroeder.
“Terminating Derek has never crossed my mind,” the statement read. “Theater camp is one part of a very large recreation department which requires his oversight of a $3 million annual budget and eight full-time staff members, 15 to 20 part-time and 200 seasonal employees.
“Derek’s department delivers programming to more than 10,000 attendees/participants representing many different constituencies,” Berns said. “He’s done an outstanding job and has served in a highly responsible and responsive manner. I look forward to his continued impact on our programming.”
Without comment, city council voted at the May 16 council meeting, in favor of the motion by council president Alec Isaacson “to move an ordinance authorizing the mayor to enter into a settlement agreement and release of all claims between the city of Beachwood, Ohio and Jill Koslen-Freireich and declaring this to be an urgent measure.”
Council member Joshua Mintz seconded the motion.
Joining Isaacson and Mintz in voting in favor were council members Mike Burkons, Barbara Bellin Janovitz, Danielle Shoykhet and Eric Synenberg.
Council member June Taylor was absent.
Council approval was required because the amount exceeds the mayor’s $1,500 spending limit to settle “moral claims.”
The settlement places Koslen-Freireich under the direct supervision of Dana Canzone, Beachwood’s human resources director, and states that “at the conclusion of the theater camp, Ms. Koslen-Freireich will not represent herself as being an employee ... of the city of Beachwood.” She will be compensated at a rate of $25 per hour, and receive $880 in back pay, less taxes and other withholding. Koslen-Freireich was to receive $15,000 in separation pay “representing alleged non-economic damages and reimbursement of up to $5,000 for medical expenses. Finally, it includes a nondisparagement clause applying both to Koslen-Freireich and to the city of Beachwood, its officials, directors, officers and employees.
Freireich signed the settlement May 10.
Koslen-Freireich emailed a statement to the Cleveland Jewish News on May 17.
“The past four weeks have been a nightmare,” Koslen-Freireich wrote. “I am still visibly shaken. Again, I am returning for the kids, the staff and the community. I feel something positive has developed from this experience. The community has witnessed firsthand how incredible Beachwood’s city council is. And I have been introduced to some wonderful people from the Haber Law firm and Beachwood’s city council. The show will go on! Life will go on. And hopefully we all come away enlightened by the outcome. I am eternally grateful for all of the support I received.”