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Commentary for 2016

Commentary from other years 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013

Published December 18, 2016

NOACA continues to stir emotions in Geauga County. At the conclusion of the December 6, 2016, public commissioner meeting, Commissioner Walter Claypool broached the subject of a NOACA resolution (2016-30) needing a response from Geauga County. At the subsequent meeting of December 13, Claypool again touched on the continuing dilemmas for Geauga County that NOACA creates for the smaller northeastern Ohio counties of Medina, Lorain, Lake, and Geauga. NOACA, the municipal planning organization for “Greater Cleveland,” consists of delegates whose total membership consists of 45 votes. Geauga County, whose three votes consist of its commissioners, is the entity with the least amount of voting influence in the organization, followed by Medina County with 4 votes, Lake County with 5 votes, and Lorain County with 7 votes.

Having received a new communication from NOACA that purports to explain how membership of each entity in NOACA will be computed as a result of NOACA seeking two additional voting seats to reach 47, Mr. Claypool, along with Commissioner Rear, expressed their frustration on December 13. NOACA documentation demonstrates that population in Cleveland continues to decline since the 1970s, the Cleveland delegation now wants greater voting power, although the premise behind NOACA has for some time been based on population density. We have included some documentation to explain how the latest NOACA formula to determine representation has been derived. We hope that all readers will find the instruction enlightening, although it is clear that the dependence on calculus to implement the formula is not necessarily based on user-friendliness.

Mr. Claypool concluded his observations with the note that federal moneys set aside for public highway improvement have been diverted for the development of projects for recreational transportation (bicycles). These projects exclude both members of the community who utilize equine recreational transportation and those tax-paying members of the community who are required to utilize equine as their sole means of transportation. It is no secret that Amish horses and their owners have been hurt and killed as a result of deplorable conditions on public roadways in the areas of Geauga County widely populated by the Amish community.

At this point, former Commissioner candidate, Nancy McArthur, who introduced herself as the current mayor of the city of Chardon, commented with an apparent objection to Mr. Claypool’s observation, perhaps attempting to demonstrate that the city of Chardon had just received criticism for the Maple Highlands Trail that was completed with the assistance of considerable grant money. “I can’t stand by and let that comment [from Claypool] go,” she spoke. She noted taking advantage of moneys distributed by NOACA requires that municipal projects be “shovel-ready.” Since the first portion of the Maple Highlands Trail was completed in 2015 as a part of NOACA’s Fiscal Year 2016 work program, the city of Chardon faces the possibility of more federal moneys when the second phase of the project is undertaken about 2018.

Both Claypool and Commissioner Rear, as well as County Administrator David Lair, responded to Mrs. McArthur. Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri was not present. Claypool was quick to respond that Mrs. McArthur’s comments were not correctly in response to his own, since he had not referenced any particular NOACA project for recreational transportation. It has been speculated that McArthur’s appearance and comment stem from her motivation to be a Commissioner candidate in 2018, when Mr. Claypool’s current term expires.

Commissioner Rear referenced recent attempts by NOACA to configure an engineering panel to eleven members. Rear referenced that the panel apparently was unable to get a quorum, and therefore unable to call a meeting about engineering issues, because membership had not been based on engineering expertuse and/or experience, but “social inclusion,” a euphemistic reference to gender and race issues. Mr. Rear noted that because of preoccupation with issues of “social justice,” rather than expertise and talent, northeastern Ohio taxpayers wind up paying more money than necessary for “road” projects because federal road moneys given to NOACA to administer wind up being utilized for unnecessary projects, while the most critical and persistent road problems are paid for with borrowed funds that require payback of interest as well as principal.

Mr. Claypool followed up on Mr. Rear’s concern. He cited Route 608 north of Middlefield, which apparently had been earmarked to receive funds from a $40 million Safety Fund but now may not receive that assistance because NOACA wants to change the law to siphon off the moneys for special [pet?] projects in Cleveland, rather than for public roadway maintenance in Geauga County. “I reached out to ODOT.” regarding maintenance of state routes 306 and 322, but there “has been no response. We Commissioners are ‘toothless tigers,’” he noted, an apparent reference to a recent remark made by Prosecutor Jim Flaiz regarding actions of the Geauga County Planning Commission in fulfilling its county responsibilities. All three Commissioners are members of the Planning Commission, along with eight members appointed by the Commissioners.

“How else is the media supposed to know about the nonsense and waste [of NOACA]?” This was an apparent answer to Mrs. McArthur’s statement in support of NOACA. In addition, Mr. Claypool provided a one-page document sent to the Commissioners’ Office by NOACA on or about December 13. This is the mathematical formula referenced in the second paragraph above to rationalize why one county [Geauga] is limited to a vote of three in a body of soon-to-be 47 votes and is denied the inclusion of its county engineer in voting decisions.

An obvious conclusion is that Cuyahoga County and Cleveland dominate all decisions made by NOACA, although the moneys that the organization administers come from all residents who are held captive with the payment of a gasoline tax, but at the same time are penalized if they must rely on equine transport instead of bicycle mobility. Of further interest is that Geauga County’s membership dues were about $35,000. Although Chardon was the recipient of NOACA grant funding for the Maple Highlands “alternative transportation” trail, Geauga public roads have received no NOACA funding.

We will be addressing the issue of NOACA again.

Published December 7, 2016

Nearly two years ago, a public hearing regarding ZC2014-1 packed the township’s Administration Building. The majority were residents from Wing Road, who came to complain about a local eatery which, in their opinion, generated unwelcome noise and posed a safety threat to their children. The meeting also attracted the owner of that establishment and his attorney to the hearing. Neither said a word. Some in attendance concluded that the hearing was only a formality to facilitate the township’s ability to use a “legal” remedy to punish that owner. Nevertheless, in spite of many protests from Wing Road residents, Zoning Inspector Kitko rationalized that the amendment would allow “measurement” and “proof” of objectionable noises with calibrated equipment.

The zoning amendment was passed unanimously by Trustees Cavanagh, Troyan, and Eberly within the prescribed legal time period without even the presence of a legal representative from the Geauga County Prosecutor’s office. Interestingly, there was legal action involving the township and
the business owner referenced above. The business owner won on the first round, but the township won the real battle by charging that stored landscape equipment constituted misuse of the property. To date, the township has neither purchased nor leased any equipment to measure alleged noise violations.

In early 2016 Auburn Township was informed by the County Planning Director that its noise amendment (ZC2014-1) is unenforceable; moreover, noted the planning director, of sixteen townships in Geauga County, Auburn Township has been the only one with an enforcement issue. Consequently, the Auburn Township zoning commission has been working on revisions to the current noise amendment in an effort to ameliorate residential complaints against contiguous businesses/

The new noise amendment (ZC2016-1) was heard on October 11 by the Geauga County Planning Commission Board of Commissioners and approved with the proviso that trustees be aware of potential difficulties in enforcing “violations” that measure at least 75 decibels. When the Auburn Township Zoning Commission held its public hearing in early November, there was citizen comment about confusing or ambiguous enforcement. This writer believes the Zoning Commission demonstrated courtesy and great attention to detail to achieve good health, safety, and welfare outcomes for affected residents.

Several members of the Zoning Commission showed up for the December 5 public hearing for ZC 2016-1 to explain the amendment and to be subjected to review in executive session by the trustees, who may or may not renew appointments expiring December 31, 2016. Zoning Commission members receive a per-meeting payment from the Auburn Township Trustees. Having watched Zoning Commission members during their public meetings, this writer concludes that perhaps with one or two exceptions, these citizens earn their keep.

No sooner had two of the current Zoning Commission members explained the noise measurement process, which is to be based on computing an “average” decibel rating over a period of at least eight hours for businesses which are thought to be operating at an excessively noisy level, than Trustee Eberly noted, “What is Frank [Zoning Inspector Kitko] supposed to do? What is the chain of events? What is the procedure for Frank to use [to enforce 2016-1]?”

Noted Zoning Commission member Todd Asnavarian, “Purchase a sound meter.”

Eberly decided to use Trustee Cavanagh to demonstrate “the problem.” Noting that “PJ was making too much noise,” which PJ could deny to Kitko, Eberly again asked, “What’s the next step? PJ says he’s taking us to court.”

Todd Asnavarian patiently explained again, “Buy Frank the equipment or use an outside firm. Let someone else [rather than the Zoning Inspector] use certified equipment. Everyone accepts calibrated equipment.”

Zoning Commission member Albert Tien added, “It’s not resident to resident, but business to resident.”

Eberly: “How does that help Frank?”

So that everyone in the room could hear his every word for a change, Kitko managed to muster up his shop teacher’s voice of forty-five years ago. He noted that he has had only three noise complaints in forty years, two of them from “parties.” These comments seemed to contrast with earlier Kitko mumblings about using scientific equipment to measure noise violations. “Buy me the equipment and train me properly.”

In the next breath,Kitko articulated with amazing volume and clarity, “There is 55 decibels constantly” on East Washington Street because of ambient noise. Any activity that a business engages in will put the noise level above 65 decibels. Poor business owner, Kitko implied. Some in attendance, however, remember Mr. Kitko’s apparent militarism against the business owner cited above. “Poor business owner, poor business owner, “ intoned Kitko.

Trustee Troyan chimed in. “We should start out with reasonableness. Frank will ask the offender to quiet down.” After all, Troyan would have all residents believe, the Auburn Township Zoning Inspector is such a reasonable, diplomatic guy who sometimes even manages to be both audible through his droopy mustache.

Enter Trustee Cavanagh. “We are dealing with enforcement and reasonableness. Will the Zoning Inspector be subject to a mandamus (legal action demanding action from township trustees) from a neighbor since it [Zoning Amendment 2016-1] is written so solidly?”

Tien: “What is the definition of ‘reasonableness’? If you don’t anticipate possible difficulties ahead of time, it’s too late when they happen.”

Cavanagh: “If it’s written so solidly, will we be forced to enforce?” So, Isn’t that what zoning code does, PJ? What is wrong with cause and effect? Incidentally, where were the trustees a few years back when they refused to talk to property owners, notably farmers? As a result of unwillingness to sit at the discussion table with a couple of farmers, Assistant Prosecutor [Dirty Birdie] Matheney, Auburn Trustees Cavanagh, Troyan, and Eberly found the township confronted with lengthy and significant litigation that penalized them at the Appeals Court level, followed by several Mandamus actions. Some accounts have noted that the cost to Geauga County taxpayers for that litigation reached or exceeded $1 million dollars. One could go ask the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office, but as we all know, David Joyce is wearing a yellow ribbon “far far away” in Washington, D.C.

Enter Troyan: “Will we be forced to go to court [because of the narrow language]?” Just so everyone understands, Mr. Troyan is a non-practicing attorney who has announced to voters that he “passed the bar exam the very first time around.” Remember that as you read further and remember Troyan’s half-ass hand signal accepting his swearing-in during January 2013. “Is the fact that ‘they’ brought it up enough reason to force us into court?” he noted after much pre-meeting rehearsal.

Enter a private resident who chose at this point to note that he moved to Auburn Township five years ago only to be forced to endure the unacceptable noise from a landscape operation that came to town three years ago. The noise is excessive a couple of times per hour, he added. In an even tone of voice he commented his motivation to sell his property and leave Auburn Township because he perceives that his property has lost value.

Suddenly, Eberly had a resident to defend. Poor resident with a problem. His voice became more voluminous from his soapbox. “We had a zoning issue. What we had didn’t work. It was very subjective.” Now Eberly was actually cooing, “There is a problem and we have to solve it for both parties.” Good politics, don’t you believe, readers?

So, readers, the scheduled fifteen minute public hearing droned on for forty five minutes. Eberly announced that the hearing is continued until 6:30 P.M. on January 16.

So, readers, will Zoning Amendment 2016-1 be approved by Auburn Trustees? Will Auburn Township Zoning Commission members be subjected to the chopping block by Auburn Township trustees? Will the litigation that rocked Auburn Township during 2009-2015 loudly enough to make the township the laughing stock all the way down in Columbus finally result in trustees who will retaliate by not passing another zoning amendment (think back to trustee rejections in 2011)?

There WILL be whipping boys. . .Who do you think they will be?

Next public hearing date for ZC 2016-1 is the Administration Building, January 16, 6:30 P.M.

Published December 1, 2016

At the conclusion of the October 25, 2016, Geauga County Commissioner meeting, Commissioner
Ralph Spidalieri spoke in excess of fifteen minutes about being “sick to my stomach” about a letter from Portage County Juvenile Detention Center’s Superintendent Rhinehart. “I saw this coming from the first e-mails,” Mr. Spidalieri verbalized with more clarity and fluidity than he normally demonstrates. “We’ve got people who don’t want to explore other options,” although the current juvenile housing facility, Spidalieri noted, is costing Geauga County $171,405 for the fourth quarter of the year (over $700,000 annually). Becoming more passionate, Spid added, “We are taking a huge hit [with regard to Geauga County payments for use of the Portage County facility].” “We could put this money in JFS [Geauga County Job and Family Services]” to fund that agency’s programs to aid disadvantaged families and youth.

At the conclusion of the November 29, 2016, Commissioner meeting, Spid apparently decided to use
a different Spin on the same topic. Just prior to Spid’s revelation, Commissioner Claypool noted that he had done some research about the housing of Geauga County juvenile offenders as a result of a presentation made by Geauga Juvenile Court fiscal officer Kimberly Laurie at the November 22 meeting. He shared that he had spoken with Assistant Prosecutor Laura LaChapelle and hoped to get more ideas from Geauga Juvenile Court Judge Grendell and Judge Burger from Portage County. He noted that with some “tweaking,” it might be possible to arrange a contract with a housing agency other than the Portage County Juvenile Detention Center to place limits on the levels of juvenile crimes that would be acceptable in an effort to limit Geauga County juvenile offenders from being exposed to harder core delinquents.

At this point, Spid managed to get his opinions out of his mouth without too much spinning of wheels or sputtering of his engine. He acknowledged that he had started the conversation about investigating alternative housing for Geauga juvenile offenders. “I started the battle,” he said, but now it was important, he added, “to pick battles. . .“There’s no point in pursuing this.” Judges don’t want an alternative, and Portage County (home of the juvenile detention facility) doesn’t want it, he went on. “I’m not wanting to fight this any more. . . We’re spinning our wheels. I get tired of reading letters.” He also mentioned YouTube in the same train of thought, implying that the letters he was tired of reading had resulted from unhappy viewers of the official video generated by the Geauga Board of Commissioners to permit interested internet viewers to keep abreast of Commissioners’ actions and to preserve transparency to Geauga voters.

At the same time, Spid told Commissioner Claypool to “have at it” if the latter so chose. Does this exchange from Spidalieri mean that it’s okay for other elected officials to take the time and risks to explore issues just as long as he doesn’t have to be accountable for his own words and actions? We believe so.

We hope that readers will take the time to view the appropriate official video segments from both the October 25 and the November 29 Commissioner meetings presented here to be able to form their own opinions.

Readers will recall that the act of videoing weekly Commissioner meetings is the accomplishment of Commissioner Blake Rear when he was named to replace Tracey Jemison, who subsequently became the director of Geauga Growth. Commissioner Rear, from his previous experience as a school board member, knows the value of having a permanent record of public business and the accountability of a public officeholder to his/her word. In providing this service to Geauga County voters/residents, Commissioner Rear is owed a debt of gratitude by the community. As is well-known, Blake Rear is now an outgoing Commissioner as a result of his defeat in the March 2016 primary to newcomer, Tim Lennon, widely thought to be a protege’ of Ralph Spidalieri. We wish Citizen Rear the best of everything and sincerely hope that he will continue to provide the community with his worthwhile thoughts.

Given Spidalieri’s latest diatribes out of both sides of his mouth and references to YouTube, can we expect that the transparency made possible by Blake Rear will end with the ascent of Tim Lennon to Rear’s seat? From the vantage point of the 2016 Geauga County elections, is it logical to conclude that Mr. Lennon’s failure to provide data to media indicates a reluctance to be tied to his word publicly? This writer is concerned about that possibility.

Time will shortly tell and makes the existence of official video very critical to the voters. We will wait to see what the disposition of the official videoing of Geauga County Commissioners may be. At this point, having witnessed several times the apparent fear of a permanent record of words, we would not be surprised to see the official video rescinded by the new majority of Spidalieri and Lennon.

We hope we are proved wrong, but we will be bringing our own video equipment when we attend Geauga Commissioner meetings. It is critical that the “public” have access to “public” meetings.

Stay tuned.

Published November 21, 2016

Many of you undoubtedly remember Auburn Township’s brush with the Ohio EPA in Twinsburg back in the spring of 2016 when its retention pond adjacent to the new construction of the $2 million Auburn Service Garage neglected to abide by the storm water management plan on file with Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation District. Listen to this short transcript as John Eberly talks about the completed Auburn Service Garage, noting that “it’s working pretty well. It is more efficient and that was our goal. . .is to instill efficiency, safety, and compliance with a few other agencies.” Don’t you mean the Environmental Protection Agency, John, through the mumbling under your breath?


Published October 25, 2016

“I’ll tell them all what I think. I don’t care.” Fewer than five minutes after making this cryptic commentary Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri started running into a wall that he mistakenly identified as “the high ground” regarding his action requesting former Mental Health Board member, Che Scott, to resign his appointment at the October 19 Mental Health Board meeting.

“I thought it was my business to tell him [Che] the bad news. . .I was pretty humbled that he took it seriously. . .Hopefully, he sent the right message to the Mental Health Board.” With these comments, Ralph Spidalieri apparently expected listeners during the October 25 Commissioners’ Meeting to believe that setting Che Scott up as the sacrificial lamb was part of taking “the high ground.” Many watching and listening to the video will vehemently disagree with Spidalieri’s rationalization of the actions that resulted in the resignation of MHB former member Che Scott.

Commissioner Walter Claypool, who attended the October 19 Mental Health Board meeting , explained it a bit differently: “Their [MHB’s] decisions come into question when they can’t get [even] one little thing right.” Shortly thereafter Claypool added a commentary about former MHB member Scott: “Some are discouraged because they attend the meetings,” an apparent reference to the fact that although Spidalieri had chastised Scott for four absences, he nevertheless had been widely acknowledged as a positive force on the Mental Health Board.

Commissioner Blake Rear, whose last day of service will be December 31, 2016, noted, “The problem that I have with ORC is that there is no clear delineation of a year [with regard to vacation of a Mental Health Board member]. The law should read that you can’t miss four meetings within a year of your appointment.”

Claypool noted the importance of regular attendance as an appointed member of any county body. “Attending meetings is important for consistency. . .You have to demonstrate reasonable behavior to make sure the public believes you. . . No one has ever held them [the Mental Health Board] accountable [before].”

Probably the most resounding comment made during the discussion came when Claypool in a soft voice noted, “I was disappointed to see Che step down.” Spidalieri was quiet on this point. That silence will not be lost upon those watching the video and analyzing its oral content. Spidalieri is up for re-election against Middlefield councilman, Ron Wiech, in a contest to be decided two weeks from today.

Published October 20, 2016

Late last week this site reported that after the appearance and surprising behavior caught on camera of Prosecutor Jim Flaiz in regard to two appointed Mental Health Board members, the Geauga County Commissioners rescinded a motion made the previous week to seek the removal of
those members. Shortly after the October 19,2016, public meeting of the Geauga County Board of Mental Health began, board member Che Scott presented Director Jim Addams and other board members a written statement. Mr. Scott read the letter aloud. He noted that he had been contacted by Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri on Monday, October 17. Spidalieri informed Mr. Scott that he had been absent from Mental Health Board meetings on four separate occasions within a period of a year. Spidalieri, who had enthusiastically appointed Mr. Scott in 2014, noted that Ohio Revised Code gives the agency that appoints members to county health boards the right to remove them if there is evidence of negligence or wrongdoing.

Mr. Scott accepted responsibility for his absences and resigned on the spot, leaving moments later.
Ironically, the two MHB members who had been implicated earlier by the Geauga County Commissioners for excessive absence remain on that board without any negative consequences. Mr. Cisan, who was absent again last evening, and Ms. Randazzo, present without making any comments whatsoever, apparently remain on the Mental Health Board without any negative consequences and without any further comments from either Jim Addams or any board member.

As noted in the commentary last week, this writer continues to believe that Commissioner Spidalieri has misused his office to facilitate removal of one MHB member who chose not to defend himself or his position while two others continue on the board. We think this latest action by Commissioner Spidalieri reflects a lack of even-handedness and even a willingness to renege on verbal promises and commitments made earlier in his first term of office.

Mr. Spidalieri, a Republican, is running against Democrat, Ron Wiech, for a Geauga County Commissioner’s seat. The election occurs on Tuesday, November 8.

Published October 15, 2016

After agreeing to table the motion to remove Geauga County Mental Health Board members, Al Cisan and Christine Randazzo, Geauga County Commissioners had a lively discussion with Prosecutor Jim Flaiz at the October 13 Commissioner meeting. The Commissioner-Prosecutor dialogue originally took place at the Commissioner meeting of October 4. At that meeting Flaiz announced his intentions of appointing outside counsel for both the county commissioners and the respective Mental Health Board members because he “could not” represent either side in an internal conflict dealing with county officials. Flaiz at the October 4 meeting noted the expectation of at least one of two attorneys representing the Mental Health Board members to be involved in negotiations with the Commissioners’ Office before a decision to vacate the two seats would be reached. Consequently, when the issue showed up on the agenda at the October 13 commissioner meeting, Jim Flaiz reappeared, to no one’s surprise.

Identified as Agenda Item #5, the motion read as follows: “The Prosecutor’s Office is requesting the Board approve and authorize the President of the Board to execute the Application of Prosecuting Attorney and Geauga County County Board of Commissioners for Appointment of Legal Counsel.” If the Commissioners were to refuse the motion, Flaiz’s role would be to get a court order from Geauga County Common Pleas Court to authorize representation for the two Department of Mental Health board members

Rescinding MHB members removal
Ralph Spidalieri, not very verbal during 2016 as Commissioner, appeared agitated. “My position is that this thing could turn into a money pit. To be fiscally sound and responsible, my position is to rescind the motion.” Readers may recall Spidalieri’s strong negative opinions regarding Mental Health Director Jim Adams and some of the members of the Mental Health Board from as early as 2014, when he voiced objections to Adams’ lucrative county salary and to apparent cronyism on the part of certain MHB members to blindly support Adams. At one point, Spidalieri voiced disgust for a survey presented by the MHB to public school students whose parents voiced outrage at not being able to prevent their children from participating.

Commissioner Blake Rear volunteered, “We have to vote yes. If we don’t, Jim [Flaiz] will go across the street and file legal jargon. We have others on the board as guilty as these.” Rear was referring to the allegation against Cisan and Randazzo that they had been excessively absent from monthly MHB public meetings. . .The problem will sort out shortly. The term [sic] should end in June.”

Commissioner Claypool repeatedly voiced the opinion that the legal expenditure to the county was minimal. “What we spend on attorneys is the result of a couple of hours.”

Jim Flaiz responded, “ Did the attorney tell you that the individual can appeal the decision?”

“We’re not paying. Mental Health is paying for it. . ,” noted Commissioner Claypool.”We should have used the term ‘vacate’ instead of ‘remove,’ “ referencing the original letter of late September 2016 that reportedly had been sent to the Prosecutor’s Office.

“The law is crystal clear” regarding the vacating of the office, Claypool continued. “The reason we are here is that the Mental Health Board is not doing things correctly. This is an administrative action, not a legal one. Beyond the hearing, this will end.”

Spidalieri seemed to wake up. He noted a conference call with Attorney Tim Reed, himself, and Dave Lair. “At the end of the day, Tim Reed said that the process will go on. The public should wake up. . .I don’t want to spend on another legal case. I vote to rescind the motion.”

Claypool quickly responded. “If you read that paragraph [in Ohio Revised Code], the Mental Health Board needs to notify the commissioners. The problem is attendance. If we don’t have people showing up for meetings, we have vulnerable people at risk.”

Commissioner Rear brought the issue back into focus. “Mr. Spidalieri has made a motion to rescind. I second.”

When Commissioner Claypool attempted to return to the topic of the power invested in the Commissioners to remove a board member because of excessive absence, Flaiz interjected, “You can discuss the motion on the floor,” meaning that any other discussion was to be terminated. Nevertheless, Claypool shot back, “We are making a decision regarding misinformation.”

Flaiz, in spite of verbalizing several times that he was not offering legal advice to the Commissioners, remarked, “In my opinion, what Tim Reed told Ralph is correct.”

Blake Rear, as he has done in more than public meeting, reminded those in attendance of the lengthy litigation that former Geauga County Sheriff Red Simmons filed against County Commissioners about fifteen years ago. That litigation ended with Simmons’ death from cancer and the appointment of Dan McClelland as Sheriff. There was “in excess pf seven figures in legal expenses.” Rear continued, “I don’t see the purpose of this fight. It will resolve in June. If there has been an omission, bring it to their attention.”

“The last person who wants to spend money is me,” noted Claypool. “This is an administrative action. If you two want to pull the plug on this, I’ll go along.” Nevertheless, he cited Ohio Revised Code 340.02 for setting four absences as justification for county commissioners to vacate an office to which they made the original appointment. The language in the administrative code uses the word may, not the word shall in reference to removal of appointees.

Jim Flaiz interjected , “I’d love to get your permission” to talk to one of the attorneys representing the two board members.

After a brief discussion, Commissioner Rear insisted, “I think that this is a bad decision going forward. . . I think when you get burned, you keep your hand out of the fire.”

Acting Commissioner’ Clerk, Deborah Ashton, noted, “ We are rescinding the action to remove the two members of the Mental Health Board. . .” When she added cryptically, “This isn’t over,” the whole room burst into laughter in an apparent attempt to ease the tension of the moment.

With the unanimous passage of the motion, Flaiz continued,”Based on the motion, I rescind my motion to appoint an attorney for the Mental Health Board members.”

Claypool continued to try to drive his point home: “The previous action was not based on correct information.”

Flaiz noted, “What Tim [Attorney Reed] told you, Ralph, was correct.”

2016 Fall Flaiz Follies
As you watch the video of the conversation, take notice of Prosecutor Flaiz’s expression as he turns his back to the Commissioners to exit the room. The camera captures Flaiz’s little smirk and chuckle as he departs, apparently unable to wait until he is out of commissioners’ chambers to enjoy his gotcha moment.

As for Commissioner Spidalieri’s interaction, we wish to remind him of his concerted efforts earlier in his first term to mete out retribution to Jim Adams and many others with whom he often disagreed, Now that he is running for a second term as commissioner, he seems to be too scared stiff to demonstrate courage, to act on principle, and to model transparency to the public. We are most disappointed with his unwillingness to show up in public forums. For an elected official who leaned on many supporters for favors, he seems too incredibly selfish and mean-spirited to be equated with the political newbie who came into power as a result of humbling Mary Samide.

Published September 29, 2016

The subject of Adam Hall in Auburn Township has generated a great deal of text from us and every other Geauga County media. Why? It is a money pit, as noted by more than one reporter. During 2015 this website reported twice on the ludicrous roof repair bills utilizing three contractors who have done a great deal of business in Auburn Township, apparently as the flavors of the day: Hummel Construction, Larson Architects, and the J. Dixon Company. The latter has been generating thermal reports that Jim Dixon alleged would find hidden problems in Adam Hall. The last such report consisted of 2 ½ pages and netted Mr. Dixon $1500. Additionally, as corroborated by Diane Ryder of the Geauga Maple Leaf on May 21, 2015, roof and ceiling repairs for the building in 2015 ran $31,000. Mrs. Ryder noted that “Adam Hall in Auburn Township continues to be a money pit.” None of the three contractors is complaining, A couple of generations ago there was a popular song whose lyrics ran, “Nice work if you can get it. and you can get it if you try.” These three companies seem to “get it” without too much trying.

We have noted in earlier reports that Auburn Township has spent in excess of $2.5 million to refurbish the building originally owned by Al Padegimas. Brace yourselves, fair readers, for the latest account of necessary remediation for Adam Hall. During the September 19, 2016, Auburn Trustee
meeting Trustee Cavanagh reported that the latest example of “money pit” syndrome is the floor of Adam Hall, referenced by Trustee Eberly as having been “constructed about 1955.” Cavanagh noted that the edges of the flooring have been curling up as an apparent result of excessive moisture. Steven Matsko, of the InterFinish Company of Garfield Heights, noted that he has performed several tests upon the floor, noting a relative humidity reading of 95%. Cavanagh noted that the problem had been evident for a year. Two residents, Carl Schneider and Mary Ruth Shumway, questioned the effectiveness ot Matsko’s potential solution. At that point, Fire Chief Phillips put in a plug for Matsko and InterFinish, gloating over what good work the company had done for the floors of the Auburn Township Fire Department, a 2011 project completed by Hummel Construction. No complete price was given for Matsko’s work, just a cost of either $1.75 per square foot (Option A) or $3.50 per square foot (Option B).

It is well-known that Mr. Padegimas had no love for the bureaucracy of Auburn Township leadership. If we give Mr. Padegimas the benefit of the doubt, his generosity is to be admired. Nevertheless, if Adam Hall was constructed in the 1950s, we question the wisdom of not demolishing the old building in the first place and constructing a brand new facility. Adam Hall is an endless money pit. Some folks love it for keeping them in the money.

Published September 21, 2016

As developers of a couple of websites, we are pretty involved in trying to keep information current. Given the breadth of jobs that we encounter, keeping a website interesting, correct, and attractive can be a real challenge, though an exciting one.

Occasionally, we have a few minutes to look at other websites to keep abreast of interesting ideas. It was during one such interval recently that we were appalled to discover some ongoing difficulties with the official Auburn Township website, known as www.auburntownship.com.

First of all, the pictures and bios of zoning commission members are sadly deficient. Are there no pictures or bios for the two most recent zoning commission members? Isn’t such a lack of attention to current detail an insult to the residents of Auburn Township, especially the ones who don’t get to attend their “public” meetings except by watching videos (not even a project undertaken by Auburn Township Trustees) or reading the minutes of the meetings? Isn’t it important for residents to know that zoning commission members have submitted a draft land use document to David Dietrick and work staff (although planning commission members have not officially been made aware of its contents) For anyone who expects to find at the official Auburn Township website written documentation of the Auburn Township bi-monthly zoning commission meetings, there are none for August and October 2015 and from March, April, May, June, July, or August 2016. Such information is important to help township residents and observers from outside this township (who may be considering prospective home ownership here) to make valuable decisions about the kind, quality, and quantity of governance here in this semi-rural community.

The record of the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals is as deficient as the webpage for the Zoning Commission. There are still photos and bios of Kevin Graham and Robert Freebairn, both of whom left the BZA a long while ago. Has the website “coordinator” informed the public constituency that Brian Scott Brockman is “back” after an absence of several years? Where is Mr. Brockman’s picture and bio? How about a bio for David Parker and Robert Pealer? Don’t they count? Moreover, where are the meeting minutes for April, May, June, July, and August 2016. Gee whiz, how is anyone in this township supposed to follow the variances and conditional uses undertaken by individual residents and business owners?

Is it too much to ask that the Legal Notices page inform everyone that the official 2017 publications for legal notices are the News Herald and the Geauga Maple Leaf? Is it too much to ask that scanned documents, when they do appear, are visible in the normal reading position, instead of upside down, or worse, out of order? We have noted that the 811 notice in the “What’s New?” section did not seem to appear until after the Whisperwood incident of late June-early July resulted in a damaged kilo-volt installation that resulted in a $3000+ charge to Auburn Township from First Energy. What would have happened if someone had been seriously hurt or injured as a result of lack of proper information on the official Auburn Township website?

We noted that the web designer just got a renewed annual contract for fifth year. Said web designer appears to earn her money, but unfortunately, the lack of maintenance performed at the website by township personnel appears not to provide her with the credit and respect that she deserves from the community, the county, and northeast Ohio.

How well we know the travails of keeping a website current and relevant. We would hope that Auburn Township Trustees would be equally dedicated to keeping the “official” website current, accurate, and useful for the taxpayers who fund this entity handsomely. We think the residents deserve better treatment and respect. Perhaps that explains why auburntownship.org gets so much traffic.

Published September 15, 2016

Since the Auburn Township Trustee Meeting of August 15, 2016, Trustee Eberly, normally an anal expulsive personality, seems anal retentive about trying to force confessions out of anyone he chooses.

First off, watch the video entitled, “I Am Worried about my Grade.”
The teacher, who is under considerable pressure to finish grading the exam and compute students’ final grade within a few days. takes the time to explain patiently why the student who is “worried about his grade” at the last possible moment may not satisfy the course requirement with last minute extra credit. Once a career English/German/Spanish/Japanese teacher, who assigned essays not only during the semester but also on the semester exam, this writer well remembers the late hours getting everything graded before final grades were due.

January 7, 2012, must have been too cold to spend with horses except to clean stalls and get back indoors. The tomatoes had been sauced, the berry and green pepper jams had been preserved, the apples had been sauced and turned into pies now frozen in the freezer. For this writer, who is not as information-tech savvy as other family members, the boredom must have provided incentive to learn something online. Doing a Facebook search, this writer took about five minutes to watch, became empathetic with the message, and performed a “PRINT SCREEN” command to share it with former and current teacher friends. Each accompanying handwritten note expressed this writer’s preference for personalizing information.

Life marches on. On August 15, 2016, in the middle of a discussion by Fiscal Officer Fred May in response, apparently, to this writer’s letter to the editor on August 11, 2016, Trustee Eberly launched into a wild rant accusing this writer of an attack on a Newbury School employee, holding up an unrecognizable sheet of paper with no possible relevance to “official” township business.

Not receiving a copy of the alleged communication from Fiscal Officer May, this writer inquired about the possible existence of such communication from the Newbury School Superintendent, who submitted in writing that no such document existed. A terse second request from this writer to Mr. May resulted in some success on September 13, 2016. One of the “offending” communications was a Facebook page dated January 7, 2016, from “Ruth McIlraith Cavanagh.” The content, having been repeatedly photocopied, was illegible, requiring a powerful magnifying glass to reveal both a picture of this writer as the initiator of the Facebook Search and a barely-recognizable graphic identifying the video as “I Am Worried about my Grade.”

Also included was a very brief typed communication to a Dr. Wagner, the then superintendent of Newbury Schools. This writer never met him or communicated with him for any reason. Someone else, who typed “Unsigned” at the bottom of the written communication, did. This writer speculates that the communicator probably was someone who had received the copied Facebook page directly or indirectly from this writer. From the vantage point of nearly five years later, it is impossible to remember the recipients of a Facebook page identifying a video entitled, “I Am Worried About my Grade.”

So if it is reasonable to assume that the communication was provided to Newbury School Employee Ruth Cavanagh, how did John Eberly acquire it?

Why was it so important for John Eberly to spin?

How did attendees benefit from the apparently anal retentive performance?

Why had Mr Eberly announced to Mr. May earlier in the meeting, “Play ‘em like you got ‘em”?

Why did it take two public information requests (the second with a threat of litigation) to receive the information presented here?

These days, why would this writer do anything but share important information to the community via You-Tube?

Have a great day!

Published September 11, 2016

At the Auburn Township Trustee meetings of August 15 and September 7, 2016, Trustee Eberly appeared hell-bent to discredit two residents who have only missed five meetings since 2010. As a result, it has appeared that John Eberly has attempted to convince other attendees that those two residents should have known information that even the trustees have not known or documented.

This writer hopes that the readers will view the two videos, the first from the August 15 meeting, during which Eberly made an accusation about authorship of a letter he claimed discredited a Newbury School employee, coincidentally the wife of one of the current three trustees. When told that there were no objections to his reading said “letter,” he chose not to do so. On August 18, when this writer made a public information request for the “letter” made part of the meeting, Fiscal Officer May noted that he had not seen the “letter,” which allegedly was in the possession of Trustee Eberly, who had been made aware of the public information request, which as of this date has not been fulfilled. Many citizens are aware that public information requests for documents that are not fulfilled become the reason why a mandamus is filed in Common Pleas Court for adjudication.

This writer made a second public information request, this time to the Superintendent of Newbury Schools. The Newbury School System responded quickly and succinctly with information that repudiated and nullified the accusation of Auburn Trustee John Eberly.

The second video is from the September 7, 2016, Auburn Township Trustee meeting. During the public comment section this writer provided the letter to attendees of the meeting, along with official notification by an official of the State Teachers Retirement System. The letter, from December 2014, was a follow-up to a phone call to the writer, a retired public school teacher, notifying that an unauthorized attempt to breach her retirement account had been intercepted by STRS. The perpetrator of that attempted breach of a private retirement account was identified by STRS as the same person as the Newbury public school employee identified by Trustee Eberly. This writer filed a timely police report with the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office upon receiving that STRS notification.

In blatant disregard of civil rights or perhaps in an attempt to escape hearing the identification of the Newbury employee during a public meeting that was well-attended, the three Auburn trustees, without the official use of a gavel, slammed substantial arms upon their long-table to proclaim that the September 7, 2016, meeting was at an end.

Watch the two videos and read the enclosed letter.

Published September 8, 2016

Listen to Auburn Township Trustee Patrick Cavanagh. At the beginning of the meeting Trustee Eberly attempted to ridicule Auburn resident and co-editor of www.auburntownship.org for a letter of concern forwarded to multiple agencies, including the Ohio EPA, regarding his concerns about the safety of Auburn Township drinking water. In Joan Dimerjian’s front page Chagrin Valley Times article of September 1, 2016, Mr. Cavanagh noted that “[t]he area is known for bad well water.”

The video clip attached to this article demonstrates Mr. Cavanagh, along with Trustees Eberly and Troyan, attempting to shut down Auburn resident, Diane Jones, as she talked to a full contingency of residents, including Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, along with several attendees who showed up for the express purpose of hearing the outcome of the “judgment entry” to end the litigation known as Deserio v. Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals, filed on October 30, 2015, otherwise known as 15A000844 in Geauga County Common Pleas Court.

Watch as Mr. Cavanagh points in the direction of Mrs. Jones, who was given permission to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting—until the Auburn Trustees did not like the content of her remarks noting unjust treatment that many would label as slander. Watch as Mr. Cavanagh points in the direction of Mrs. Jones and addresses Tom Jones, whom Mr. Eberly had attempted to discredit earlier in the meeting with the following comment: “You might want to take care of your psycho wife over here, Mr. Jones.”

Such is the nature of the political system in Auburn Township. It would appear that those who attend the charade of Auburn Township public meetings can expect to be ridiculed and discredited with slanderous comments from trustees that are obviously out of touch with the real world of serving the health, safety, and welfare of residents and would prefer to silence dissent.

Is this the kind of Trustee rule that Auburn taxpayers deserve? Many in attendance at the meeting voiced their abject disgust at Mr. Cavanagh’s behavior and lack of respect for the Auburn Township community.

Published September 2, 2016

As an associate member of Geauga Township and Ohio Township Associations, this writer is thrilled to receive bi-monthly issues of Ohio Township News, the official publication of the Ohio Township Association. One of the most intriguing topics to occur during 2016 was Ohio Treasurer, Josh Mandel’s, short discussion entitled “Townships Across Ohio Continue to Join OhioCheckbook.com,” appearing in the May/June 2016 issue (Vol.51, No.3) on page13.

Treasurer Mandel wrote, “last April, I sent a letter to local government and school officials representing 3.962 local governments throughout the state inviting them to place their checkbook level data on OhioCheckbook.com. I offered this invitation to our local governments and schools. They simply send their data to my office, and we’ll take care of the rest. Since that invitation, over 600 local governments and schools have committed to partnering with OhioCheckbook.com. . . It’s been just six months since the first wave of local governments and schools first appeared on OhioCheckbook.com, and taxpayers gave access to billions of dollars of local government spending. To date, these local transparency websites represent over 11 million transactions totaling more than $32 BILLION IN LOCAL EXPENDITURES THAT TAXPAYERS CAN SEARCH, SORT AND DOWNLOAD. . I am proud of local governments, schools and townships, who are leading the charge and creating more open and transparent government.”

Noting from the article that several townships from Geauga County, but not Auburn Township, were members of OhioCheckbook.com, I referenced the issue at the first Auburn Township Trustee meeting in May, 2016, and asked Finance Officer, Fred May, what his plans were regarding OhioCheckbook.com. Mr. May answered that it was his intention to enroll Auburn Township and noted that the process would take about 90 days.

It is now September 2016. Although many neighboring townships from Geauga County are now members, as is the city of Chardon, to date, Auburn Township is not a member. In light of fiscal accounting shortcomings uncovered by the last two-year state accounting cycle by Julian and Grube, what in the hell is Auburn Township’s excuse for reluctance to be held accountable by its voters now?

Published August 17, 2016

After writing an analysis of the 2014 and, particularly, the 2015 State performance audits for Auburn Township, this writer was amused by both written and oral communications issued by Fiscal Officer Fredrick May, after he acknowledged to longtime Auburn auditing entity, Julian and Grube, not only his responsibility for the findings of fact (all seven; one of which was a correction of a previous problem), but also his plan for resolving the problem in the future. His stated plans for resolution have been noted in previous audits under Mr. May.

Needless to say, we were surprised that Mr. May expressed his belief that this website would publish “his side of the story” as “a courtesy.” Mr May has worked in the Auburn Township Fiscal Office since 2012 and was appointed the Fiscal Officer in 2013. Alarmingly, the findings of fact for 2014 and 2015 reflect more problems than did the 2012 and 2013 reports, all of which are accessible to the public at https://www.ohioauditor.gov.

Although we responded in the past out of courtesy to Mr. May’s requests to present “the other side,” we choose not to do so this time because the auditing entity, Julian and Grube, had very specific examples of fiscal deficiencies in the Auburn Township 2014 and 2015 audits, many of which were repeats of deficiencies from previous years. As a result, our conclusion is that Mr. May has either not demonstrated a conscientious effort to rectify long-standing fiscal deficiency in Auburn Township or has not chosen to ask questions before taking questionable actions that result in negative consequences.

At the August 15th Auburn Township Trustee meeting, we were further disappointed to hear Mr. May make reference to this writer’s Letter to the Editor in the August 11 Chagrin Valley Times and at this website during the same time. Said letter consisted approximately ninety per cent of quoted findings from the auditing entity, Julian and Grube, and quoted responses to those findings provided by Mr. May himself. Again, those 2014 and 2015 reports are accessible at the State Auditor’s website, noted above, under “Search Audits.” Although there are several Auburn Townships in the State Auditor’s database, inserting “Geauga” in the county field will bring up state audits for Geauga County’s Auburn Township going back to the late 1990s.

Imagine our disappointment when Mr. May opined at the August 15 public meeting that the letter writer’s motive was to make Auburn Township look bad by taking things “out of context.” Further, he explained, he was speaking out of his moral responsibility to inform residents, whom he identified by name, who were not “up on things.” This writer believes that such a condescending attitude demeans not only the individuals Mr. May identified, but also the entire Auburn community. Further, he implied that a carryover balance of more than $1,900,000 at the start of the year removed the seriousness of the Julian and Grube findings without identifying the year in which such carryover existed. In fact, Julian and Grube concluded that township finances, given the current fiscal officer practices of not insisting on correct appropriation, could lead to negative balances because of the difficulty of knowing all of the potential financial liabilities that could impact township finances.

Since Mr. May chose to find a scapegoat rather than own up to the deficiencies carefully explained by Julian and Grube, this writer is calling a spade a spade. Mr. May, although an attorney in his mid-years, appears to be suffering a serious lack of maturity and an unwillingness to grow from his experiences. Finding a scapegoat, a messenger to sacrifice in place of the flesh of his own behind, is an old trick. Sometimes it works for a little while. . .

By now Mr. May is no longer a newbie fiscal officer, especially with the benefit of software known as UAN. The Uniform Accounting Network (UAN) is a user-friendly financial software package created by the Auditor of State’s office to support the accounting, payroll and financial management activities of local governments in Ohio. The Ohio Township Association (OTA) provides three days of workshops to elected township officers as well as interested members of the public every January in Columbus. There are always special workshops for elected fiscal officers as well as other seminars dealing with fiscal issues during the year. As regular attendees of Auburn Township meetings, we are well aware that Mr. May has gotten reimbursed for attending such workshops in addition to the OTA winter workshops.

Mr. May needs to be reminded that there are plenty of elected fiscal officers who have the benefit of neither legal nor accounting training. The premise of the election process every fourth year (2007, 2011, 2015, 2019, etc.) is that the average citizen is and should be capable of performing satisfactorily as a fiscal officer, especially with the benefit of the standardized UAN software, for which township voters pay, and the accessibility of OTA by phone and e-mail contact. Does Mr. May really think that John Q. Public will believe his argument that he has as much credibility and standing as the State Auditor’s agents?

It is important, further, to review videos of Auburn trustee meetings from early 2016, when the latest auditing process began. Auburn Trustees Troyan, Eberly, and Cavanagh can be heard suggesting the use of an auditing entity other than Julian and Grube. This action suggests that the trustees were aware of fiscal accounting problems and that selection of another auditing entity might help create some sort of clean slate. In the end, Julian and Grube became the auditing entity of choice.

The next audit period starts in 2018. We believe that is adequate time for Mr. May to learn with humility and dignity from his mistakes and resolve the six remaining violations of Ohio Revised Code/material weaknesses cited in the 2014 and 2015 State Audits of Auburn Township. Should there be any other outcome, Mr. May is blatantly daring voters to invoke recent law enacted by the Ohio Legislature to remove him from office.

Published July 25, 2016

See ED. NOTE below.

We understand that at least one resident in close proximity to Auburn Community Park has reported that cars of visitors are speeding. That situation was reported to the Trustees at the July 11 Trustee meeting. Since that meeting, we have noticed that the gates to the park have been removed, but conflicting signage may be a problem.

On one hand, a sign informs that the park is closed from sunset to sunrise. Because there are no gates with which to physically close the park to entrants, how does Auburn Township expect to enforce the information on that sign?

On the other hand, another sign, one so ancient that the paint is wearing off, reads that the site is a construction zone, and a source of danger to all those who may enter.

So which is it, Auburn Trustees? Do you really want visitors because there are no gates to keep them out? Is Auburn Community Park really a construction site that is a source of danger to everyone who might enter, especially with small children who may get injured on playground equipment? How will Auburn Trustees handle the first piece of litigation that results from confusing, conflicting, ambiguous, and false information?

Just keep reading here to find out the latest developments. Remember the old saying: If we build it, “they” will come. Although nobody has come to Auburn Corners, “they” might be confused enough by the stupid signage at Auburn Community Park to rush right in where angels fear to tread.

Stay tuned. . . .Where’s Brindle Matheney in the Prosecutor’s Office when you need her?

ED. NOTE: July 30, 2016

Since the publish date of the commentary about the conflicting signs at Auburn Community Park, we observed today that the sign advising that the park is a hazardous construction site has been removed.

Posted July 20, 2016

Interest piqued by a comment from the Geauga Fiscal Officer about a payment to Auburn Township

Watch the video before you decide whether Auburn Township trustees are ignorant or arrogant.
from the Geauga County Engineer in the amount of nearly $29,000 during the July 12 County Commissioners meeting in Chardon, this writer waited to hear mention of receipt of the check at the July 18 Auburn Trustee meeting. When none was forthcoming and Trustee Eberly sought to adjourn that meeting, this writer questioned what Check 97178 signed by Auditor Frank Gliha was for. Trustee Troyan, who responded with apparent perversity, evasiveness, and stupidity, remarked that he was surprised at the payment and claimed to have no prior knowledge of the reason for the remittance. Trustee Eberly, acting as though he had not even heard the question, averted an answer and started to address Fire Chief John Phillips until this writer reminded Eberly and the others that the question that had been posed to the trustees remained unanswered.

Such lack of knowledge (intentional or actual) prompted this writer to check another source within the county. The County Engineer’s Office, through its information officer, Frank Antenucci, was gracious enough to provide the original contract, dated January 18, 2016, signed by County Engineer Joe Cattell and three Auburn trustees (Michael S. Troyan, Patrick J. Cavanagh, and John A. Eberly) as well as Auburn Fiscal Officer, Fredrick May. See copy of contract here

The contract reads in significant part, “. . .the Parties agree to the following:
  • a. The Township agrees to engage the services of the Engineer to perform, conduct, and partially fund the culvert replacement of culvert CU-47-0.20 and associated drainage appurtenances located on Washington Street in Auburn Township, Geauga County, Ohio (hereinafter referred to as the “Project”);
  • b. The Engineer agrees to complete the Project by December 31, 2016.
  • c. The Engineer agrees to partially contribute to the Township in the amount of $28, 992.72 to partially fund the Project no later than November 1, 2016;”
When this writer asked the Geauga Engineer’s Office why it had paid Auburn Township the nearly $29,000 issued in Check 97178, which Troyan and cronies Eberly and Cavanagh responded to with dumb stares, she was provided the following answer:

“The County Engineer recommended authorization of this payment by Auburn Township for the following project: The Drainage improvements and Asphalt Resurfacing of Various Roads, Auburn Township, Geauga County, Ohio. Contract RS-AUB-16. This is an improvement project performed on (East) Washington Street (Township Road 47/County Highway 606), Ultimately, this is a
joint project between Auburn Township Trustees and the County Engineer, Currently, Auburn Township is performing Phase 1 of the project with initial drainage work that the County Engineer will complete in the next few years. The Engineer’s Office allocated funding, $28,997.72, to assist with phase w of the project that the Engineer will complete on the County road section in the next few years.

Further, according to the Engineer’s Office, a payment of some $83,000 to Eclipse Co., LLC, is “under the current executed contract for RS-AUB-16,” In addition, according to the County Engineer’s Office. “[t]he contracts were executed by the [Auburn] Board of Trustees meeting held on May 23, 2016. . .
Eclipse Co., LLC, was awarded the contract for the above referenced project in the amount of $291,740.69.”

This writer is amazed that Eclipse Co., LLC, is the same entity who, through its attorney, Bainbridge resident Greg O’Brien of Stettinius Taft, was able to finagle the presence of a massive rock pile that was supposed to be cleaned up at the end of 2015, but which existed past an extended Geauga County imposed court deadline of May 31, 2016, with the assistance of Auburn Township Assistant Prosecutor, Brindle Matheney. What could possibly be wrong with this arrangement? Who is making whom to the detriment of Geauga County taxpayer funds? Who is getting special favors? WHY???

And as for the Auburn Trustees, more familiarly known as the CLUTSY DUMMIES, why wouldn’t they have simply explained the reason for being awarded almost $29,000? Hats off to Michael Troyan, who styles himself an Esquire for having passed the Ohio Bar once upon a time long long ago in a galaxy far far away for being so clever as to avoid a simple answer. Thanks Troyan, ESQUIRE(in your dreams, biggest big daddy of them all) for giving this Auburn resident the incentive for getting the whole truth from the appropriate county office.

It would appear that the Auburn elected officials clearly suck for their unwillingness to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them, God.

Published July 4, 2016

It seems just like yesterday that we were discussing Auburn Corners. That's because of a gas station envisioned there by Ken Abha III in 2014 and a pizza restaurant approved on a non-conforming lot in 2015. It appears that neither venture is coming to fruition, although a landscape business currently in litigation in Forrest Burt's courtroom may have more good fortune than several other ventures envisioned by property owners for Auburn Corners. Those who have “been paying attention” have noted that several properties in Auburn Corners have been abandoned or foreclosed, primarily because of prohibitive sewer assessments to pay for the Lake LaDue waste water plant that now supports parts of Troy Township. Are affected Troy Township residents also paying sewer assessments for the privilege of being tied into Lake LaDue?

It is of great interest, therefore, to note that on June 28, 2016, the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals came together ro decide two issues, BZA-16-21c, for a conditional use; and BZA-16-22v, a request for a variance. Both requests were submitted by Matthew H. Veon and Stephanie Zsebedics, a couple with two children, aged 9 and 13. Recent records list the address of Ms. Zsebedics as 17158 Valley Road, suggesting that she is a neighbor of longtime zoning inspector, Frank Kitko, and BZA member, Scott Brockman.

The property that is the subject of these two BZA actions, is owned jointly by Veon and Zsebedics, having been purchased in mid May 2016, for less money than its purchase price in the early 1990s. The indication is that this property was vacant and abandoned, perhaps, like so many others in Auburn Corners, because of prohibitive sewer assessments to be tied in to the Lake LaDue waste water plant. At any rate, Ms. Zsebedics was not present for the hearing, and none of Mr. Veon's contiguous neighbors (are there any) was present either.

The curious part of this BZA hearing was that an Auburn Township Trustee, Patrick J. Cavanagh, showed up at 7:05 P.M. The last time that an Auburn Township Trustee showed up for a BZA hearing was in the summer of 2014, when John Eberly showed up for the BZA hearing that approved of Ken Abha III's plans to build a gas station at the corner of East Washington and Ravenna Roads, across the street from a planned gas station/self storage facility. Neither one of these projects has occurred at Auburn Corners, again, it would seem, because of prohibitive sanitary sewer assessments that cost more than the profits that might be generated in the so-called “business district” designed by Cavanagh's grandfather, Ignatius Cavanagh, about 1948, apparently to generate revenues for a small town that had been abandoned by folks who had enough resources to go elsewhere. The installation of the the Bainbridge exit off 422 in the late 1980s seemed to spell some hope for those who had small parcels in the area that they hoped to sell, but in general, Auburn Corners has become a failed business proposition for about everyone except the long-running Auburn Inn, the glass-blowing venture of Jason Wein, and the chiropractic practice known as Wellness One, underwritten by a Chandon orthopedic practice.

Long story short: BZA members Laura Bellar, Brian Stewart, Lewis Tomsic, Scott Brockman, and Scott Kamenir voted unanimously to allow Veon and Zbededics to open Stephanie's Catering at an existing single family dwelling, located at 11867 Washington Street, Auburn Ohio 44023, in a B1A zoning district” and allowed “ a proposed lot consolidation of two non-conforming lots, identified as PPN 01-026000 and 01-118051, both containing .66 acres; into one proposed larger non-conforming lot containing 1.22 acres in the B1A Auburn Corners Retail Business District.”

Dear reader, if you read carefully, you know that .66 + .66 equals 1.32 acres. That knowledge makes you smarter than Zoning Secretary Jane Hardy, Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko, and the members of the Board of Zoning Appeals. In spite of the error, the consolidation was approved.

At the end of the meeting, just before Matthew Veon left with his two approvals, one member of the Auburn BZA was heard to say, “Say hello to Stephanie for us.” The action was all over by 7: 30, although Trustee Cavanagh lingered to have a conversation with some of the other “good old boys.” Did it help that Stephanie was known to all the “good old boys”? You'll need to get that fact from the horse's mouth.

Oh, and by the way, this is Independence Day. Amidst the fireworks and partying, does the system in Auburn Township work equally for all? Check it out inside the horse's mouth.

Published July 2, 2016

Back on April Fools Day, 2013, local entrepreneur/gas-station owner, Ken Abha III, submitted the high bid of $165,000 to Auburn Trustees, Cavanagh, Troyan, and Eberly for the purchase of a building and three-acre lot known as 17806 Ravenna Road . At the next meeting, April 15, the same trustees accepted the $165,000 check from Ashba and his wife, Lynn.

At the time, Trustee Troyan noted, “Personally, I believe something is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it. . .It's a reasonable offer and he has a pretty solid plan about what he;d like to do with it.” Troyan seemed to be rationalizing why the property only brought $165,000 after the three trustees had announced their expectation of receiving $200,000. The deal was finalized in mid June 2013.

Three years later the anticipated gas station to be erected at 17806 has not materialized, and the building, which Abha offered free to anyone who would move it, is being rented out. Did the Auburn Township Trustees sell a White Elephant to the Abhas, the main members of White Road LLC?

Interestingly, Abha, without having purchased an extant gas station on Bell Street in South Russell, has initiated litigation against that municipality for failure of its board of zoning appeals to grant him the variance he sought to be able to upgrade a parcel owned by Jim Pascoe. That BZA meeting occurred on January 20, 2016. The only South Russell BZA member to vote in favor of the variance was George Clemens. Fellow BZA members, Gregory Gamm, Geauga Assistant Prosecutor, Laura LaChapelle; David Maistros, and Christine Houston voted against granting the variance.

As a result. Abha hired veteran land-use attorney, Sheldon Berns. of the Beachwood law firm Berns, Ockner, & Greenberger. To represent his company, Bell Station LLC. The resulting litigation, styled The Bell Station LLC vs. Zoning Board of Appeals [sic], Village of South Russell, Ohio, et al, 16A0233, was filed in March 2016 in Geauga County Common Pleas Court under Judge Forrest W. Burt.

The opening paragraph reads,
“Pursuant to Chapter 2506 of the Ohio Revised Code, Appellant The Bell Station LLC (“Appellant”) gives notice of its appeal on questions of law and fact taken from the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals [sic[, Village of South Russell, Ohio {“ZBA”) [sic] taken during its meeting on January 20, 2016, and approved on March 2, 2016 (“Decision”). . .In its Decision, the ZBA[sic] denied Appellant's
request for a necessary building expansion at 5196 Chillicothe Road, South Russell, Ohio. Appellant challenges the Decision as illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and/or unsupported by the preponderance of substantial, reliable, and probative evidence on fht whole record. Appellant may also challenge the constitutionality of the Decision. Appellant reserves all rights under the Constitutions and laws of the United States and the State of Ohio.”

For the record, Shellie Berns has become known as the most outstanding expert on land use in northeast Ohio. He was the litigator who brought victory to Shemo in the 2000 Ohio Supreme Court case known as Shemo v. Mayfield Heights. In that case the city of Mayfield Heights denied a zoning permit to a developer, who had the patience and foresight to litigate and to win after several years in common pleas, appellate, and supreme court venues. More recently, Berns was the litigator who successfully represented Willow Grove LLC against Olmsted Township in the 2014 Ohio Supreme Court case known as Willow Grove LLC v. Olmsted Township Zoning Code, a 2015 decision cited frequently in planning seminars conducted by the Ohio chapter of the American Planning Association.

The end result of Geauga Common Pleas Court case 16A0233 appears to be the granting by Judge Burt of a second extension of time to both attorneys, Berns and David Ondrey, to reach an agreement that the mayor of South Russell will sign to avoid the time and expense of a lengthy litigation.

This willingness to negotiate in Geauga County seems to be a very distinct reversal of policy of several years ago, when at least one municipality, the above-mentioned Auburn Township, dared anyone taking issue with the unreasonable and capricious decisions of the Auburn Board of Zoning Appeals to take the BZA and the Trustees to court. Two local agricultural entities, the Auburn Twin Oaks Winery and Wind in the Woods Farm, accepted the dare, both winning at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals. That body ridiculed Auburn Township Trustees and its BZA for violating Ohio Revised Code 519.21, the regulation that states townships are forbidden to prohibit or zone agricultural ventures, a procedure which Auburn Township continues to follow, most recently in its actions against a local goat breeder.

The issue under discussion here, however, is Ken Abha III and his apparent success, with the assistance of Sheldon Berns, Esquire, to demonstrate the fallacies of South Russell zoning decisions. The most curious question, however, remains: Whatever happened to the gas station promised to Auburn Township residents when Auburn Township Trustees pulled another fast one and apparently sold a White Elephant in the form of property at 17805 Ravenna Road? South Russell has apparently seen the error of its ways, but it appears the powers that be in Auburn Township continue to harm anyone/everyone with whom they come in contact. Auburn Trustees remain the Rogue Gallery of Geauga County.

Published June 20, 2016

Watch the accompanying video of the June 20 Auburn Trustee meeting. Trustees gave up their report time so that they could speed the meeting up and go into executive session to discuss
“pending litigation.” When Trustee Eberly rushed to call executive session, this writer raised her hand to remind him that the litigation in question, 15A000844, was the subject of a second request for an extended briefing period, filed on June 7. The joint request for that extension, filed by appellant's attorney, Roger J. Weiss, with the e-mail consent of Auburn's Assistant Prosecutor Matheney, is worth quoting.
“. . .a Consent Judgment Entry And Agreement is presently being circulated among the parties, which, if completed by the parties and approved by the Court, will resolve all material issues with respect to Appellant's Appeal. . . A revised draft of the proposed Consent Entry And Agreement has been prepared by Counsel. . .That draft has been submitted to the Township Trustees and is expected to be discussed by said Trustees at their regular meeting either on June 6, 2016 or June 20, 2015 (or both). [Emphasis added]

This writer specifically asked Eberly whether there would be action and whether meeting attendees would be called back in when Trustees terminated executive session. Two individuals stayed the entire length of the executive session, from approximately 8 P.M until 8:45 P.M. and can attest that Auburn Trustees did not go back into regular session nor invite the meeting attendees back in to summarize the events, although the appellants and their attorney were gracious enough to summarize the events. We believe it is important to let the public know that the Auburn Trustees and their Assistant Prosecutor are careless about observing the tenets of Ohio Revised Code and Administrative Code. The writers of this commentary wish to remind the aforementioned individuals that members of the community are reading and watching and there will be another Trustee election in Auburn in about another year.

In the meantime, we wish to congratulate Mr. Deserio and Attorney Weiss for their courtesy and politeness. We wish them all the success. We are disgusted with the unwillingness and inability of Auburn Trustees, Zoning Inspector, and Board of Zoning Appeals to deal with Auburn property owners and to resolve property issues within Auburn Township with respect.

Voters are reading and watching and thinking, Auburn politicos. You can only screw your taxpayers for so long before the whiplash cuts all of you in your own asses. We are watching and keeping track of your actions, and we will likewise keep the voting public informed and prepared to do what they inevitably will do—turn you all out, along with a she-cobra in your midst.

Published June 14. 2016

Initially expecting to meet at Russell Township public buildings, attendees to the monthly Russell Township Park Board found themselves surprised to find the meeting at the EOUV Hall at 8636 Pekin Road in the township. EOUV stands for Erster Oesterreichischer Unterstutzungs Verein (the First Austrian Mutual Aid Society/Union) and represents the union of a German-speaking group of Cleveland immigrants from East 38 th Street and a second group of German-speakers known as the DOUV or Deutscher Oesterreichischer Unterstutzungs Verein (the German-Austrian Mutual Aid Society/Union) from the neighborhood of East 73rd and Woodland Avenue. The first new building housing both groups was completed on Shaw Avenue in the 1950s although membership dates from the 1880s. The 52-acre parcel in Russell Township was purchased by the society in the 1970s when membership found themselves moving out of Cleveland and into eastern exurbs. The present clubhouse and caretaker's house, built in the style of an Austrian chalet, was completed about 1983.
Attendees of the RTPB meeting found themselves enchanted by the charm of buildings and land, but the magic spell wore off as the meeting ensued with perhaps fifty, many of them Democratic elected officials and candidates for election in the upcoming November election. Some in attendance, including the writer of this review, are not Russell residents. The meeting began promptly at 7 P.M.

The 24-page judgment entry “In the Matter of Russell Township Park District” aka Probate Court Case 84 PC000137, authored by Probate Court Judge Timothy Grendell, was filed on June 1, 2016. The initial paragraph reads,

“The Court conducted a hearing on the status of the two recent appointees to the Russell Park Township Park Board (the 'Board') on May 24, 2016. The hearing was held to address complaints by some Russell Township residents alleging (1) that the Board appointees violated their fiduciay and staturory duties by not voting to purchase of portion of undeveloped real property owned by Mary Modroo located on Hemlock Road (the 'Modroo property') as urged by a group of residents at a Park Board meeting on May 9, 2016; (2) that the Board violated R.C. 121,22, the Sunshine Law, with respect to the
notice and agenda for the meeting on May 16, 2016; and (3) that the Board is acting in a dilatory fashion by seeking an independent appraisal before deciding on the potential purchase of the Modroo property.”

On pages 5-6 of the referenced judgment entry Judge Grendell writes about Western Reserve Land Conservancy Employee, who testified in Probate Court:

“WRLC never entered into a purchase agreement, memorandum of understanding, agreement of purchase, or letter of understanding with the [Russell[ Park Board regarding the purchase of the Modroo property. However, the WRLC had entered into such agreements in prior purchases of property involving park districts in Geauga County. Based on the conversations with the commissioners, WRLC believed that the Park Board would agree to such a purchase, and expected to purchase all the land covered under the first contract with funding from RTPB. [Park Board minutes reviewed by this Court reflect that no formal purchase authorization actions were taken by the Park Board.] Mr. Cochran was unaware of what contingencies were part pf the contract between WRLC and Modroo Real Estate, and was unaware of whether WRLC had ever shown a copy of the contract to any of the current or former members of the Park Board, because it had a confidentiality clause. If WRLC completes the transaction with Modroo Real Estate, the Modroo family agreed in advance to give a fixed dollar amount to WRLC as a donation.”

On pages 8 and 10 of the judgment entry, relating to testimony of former Russell Township Park Board member Roy Podojil, Judge Grendell noted,

“In October 2015, all three then-sitting members of the Park Board had an unofficial meeting with Joe Leslie and Keith McClintock of WRLC at the administration building in Russell to discuss the potential for purchasing the Modroo property, at which time the Park Board members were made aware of the October appraisal of 60 acres for $1.2 million. This meeting was not public.” . . .Mr. Podojil was not aware of Paul Van Curen's May [2016] appraisal, which put the value of each 3-acre lot at $200,000. Instead, he based his calculations on the assumption that each acre was worth about $29,000. He testified that he believes Paul Van Curen's calculations that the 3 acre lots are worth approximately $65,000 per acre seems to be high. “

In regard to the testimony of current Russell Township Park Board member Charlie Butters, Grendell noted on pages 13-14.

“The Park District's inside millage has been declining because the Township is currently reducing it. He [Butters] recently discovered that the township trustees cannot legally reduce the inside millage without Park Board approval, and he has not discovered any Park Board votes to accept the reduced inside millage. . . Mr. Butters does not believe that voting to approve the purchase of the Modroo property at this time would be in accordance with Article I, Section 2(f) of the Park Board's bylaws, which requires the Park Board to operate with fiscal responsibility. He believes it would be reckless to vote to purchase property without exercising due diligence, which he does not believe the Park Board has had the time or the information to do. He believes that one or two independent appraisals are necessary. He testified that a developer was willing to teach him how developers price land, and was told that $15,000-18,000 would be a good price per acre, based on how much work a developer would have to put into property to make it sellable.”

“The May 16, 2016 meeting was called to get general business items out of the way, primarily to authorize the expenditure of funds to hire an independent appraiser. At the May 9, 2016 meeting, he did not have a copy of the proposed contract between WRLC and RTPB, a copy of the proposed contract between WRLC and Modroo Real Estate, or a copy of the appraisal. The notice provided for the May 16, 2016 meeting was put on the website. He could not recall the exact language, but remembered that he put 'and any other business which may come before the board' in the notice, because Russell Township Trustee meetings had always had that phrase. Another resident pointed out to him that he needed to specific about the items to be covered. He now understands that the law requires him to specifically identify the business to be discussed at special or emergency meetings. At least 24 hours' notice was provided, because he sent it to the newspapers either Thursday or Friday and uploaded the information on the RTPB website Saturday meeting. The meeting was on the following Monday.”

As regards the testimony furnished to the court by current RTPB member Linda O'Brien, Grendell noted on pages 15-16, “Neither Roy Podojil nor Sandy Siegler ever spoke to her about the Modroo property before that meeting. She voted not to proceed until there was further information, and after that meeting Sandy Siegler contracted her to ask her to reconsider her decision. She wanted to have more information, such as an appraisal, a contract, information about any restrictions, and information about the vision for the use of the property. She also had concerns about the three lots and about the funding for the purchase. . . Ms. O'Brien testified that she was never presented with a draft copy of the contract between the Park Board and WRLC or of the contract between WRLC and Modroo Real Estate. He had not seen any copies of the appraisal of the property prior to May 16, 2016. . .If she gets enough information, she would be willing to acquire the property. She requested a copy of the contract, and one was not provided to her. She found out for the first time in the courtroom that she could not look at it because of confidentiality agreements. If WRLC was acting as the agent for the Park Board, she has no idea why the Park Board would be prohibited from seeing the contract as the principal. She has received a copy of Paul Van Curen's appraisal because she specifically requested it. . . She still does not know exactly what property and what acreage WRLC has under contract with Modroo Real Estate.”

Regarding legal analysis of the complaints at hand, the Court draws conclusions on pages 18 and following. On pages 19-21 the text reads, “The Court finds no fault in the new Park Board members' decision to complete due diligence (such as seeing a copy of the appraisal and contract and verifying the property's fair market value) before voting to purchase the property or a portion thereof. If the Park Board members believe that they do not have sufficient information to vote, they should not do so until they have pursued and obtained that information.”

Regarding the question as to whether any of the Park Board's actions violated the provisions of R.C. 121.22, also known as Ohio's Sunshine Law, “Testimony indicates that the Park Board treated the May 16, 2016 meeting as an emergency meeting, even though the news media reported it as a special meeting. Thus, only immediate notification would be required. However, even if the May 16 meeting is viewed as a special meeting, the Board still complied with the provisions of R.C. 121.22(F) regarding the timing of notifications by notifying news media on the morning of Friday, May 13, 2016. . . and by providing notice to interested parties via the RTPB website on the morning of Saturday, May 14, 2016. . .The Court finds that the claims that the Park Board did not provide timely notice of the meeting are without merit .”

“While none of the sitting Board members were involved in the October 2015 unofficial meeting between the then Park Board members and Joe Leslie and Keith McClintock of WRLC, there is concern that this meeting may have violated the provisions of R.C. 121.22. Based on sworn testimony, the Park Board either informed WRLC of the Board;s available funds or had deliberate conversations with WRLC concerning the potential purchase the Modroo property [sic]. R.C. 121.22(B)(2) defines meetings as 'any prearranged discussion of the public business of the public body by a majority of its members.' By all appearances, this would be an example of a meeting subject to regulation under the provisions R.C. 121.22, and which is required to be preemptively sellable open to the public.'

“There is also concern about the longstanding practice of the Park Board of retreating into executive session to discuss potential land acquisition, which not only has the effect of preventing public input but also could bein conflict with R.C. 121.22(G)(2). Public entities are allowed to enter executive sessions to consider the sale or purchase of property by that entity, but are only permitted to do so 'if premature disclosure of information would give an unfair competitive or bargaining advantage to a person whose personal, private interest is adverse to the general public interest.' R.C. 121.22(G)(2)
. . .Further, members of a public body cannot use executive sessions as a 'subterfuge for providing covert information to prospective buyers or sellers,' and if the purchase or sale of property by the public body is based on covert information, that purchase or sale is void. R.C.121.22(G)(2).”

“Based on the complexity of issues facing the Park Board, the Board should seriously consider retaining a competent attorney who can provide advice to the Board on various compliance and real estate matters to ensure both compliance and proper financial stewardship of Russell Township taxpayers' money.”

On the third complaint, whether the Board members unnecessarily delayed the process of property acquisition by seeking independent appraisal, Judge Grendell points out that the October 2015 appraisal of 60 acres at $1,200,000 increased six months later to an appraisal of 52 acres of the same property for $1,550.000. an increase in value of $350,000 that he terms “voodoo appraising” on page 22. “This valuation sleight of hand converts acreage. . .previously valued at $20,000 per acre . . .to a value of $65,000 per acre. . .”

The Court's conclusion is “that the complaints raised against the current Park Board members are not grounds for the Court to exercise its discretionary powers under R.C. 1545.06 to remove Park Board members. . .The Court takes no position as to whether the Park Board should purchase the Modroo property, as that decision rests solely within the sound discretion of the Board. R.C. 1545.11. This Court cannot and will not interfere with the Board's purchase decisions.” [page 24]

With this decision in hand current Russell Township Park Board members Linda O'Brien and Charlie Butters called the meeting to order. O'Brien noted that the WRLC appraisal is in writing. Additionally one independent appraiser is willing to make an appraisal in writing. RTPB members noted that they need a clean environmental report, a survey, and a clean title to be able to purchase the Modroo property. Executive session was called at 7:08 P.M. to discuss the possibility of purchase, with a return to regular session at 7:44 P.M. At that time there was an announcement of a “solid partnership between RTPB and WRLC to purchase the property” with the provisions that there would be no borrowing and the cooperation of WRLC agent Joe Leslie.

Mention was made of Russell Township Trustees' intention to form a trustee-controlled park district under R.C. 511 Additionally, Charlie Butters referenced the unwillingness of the Russell Township Trustees (Jim Mueller, Gary Gabrain, and Judsen Madden) to provide a link to the R.C. 1545-authorized park district from the “official” Russell website. O'Brien and Butters approved motion 41 to approve the expenditure of not more than $3500 to engage the services of an attorney from the Akron law firm of Buckingham, Doolittle, and Burroughs. During this time, O'Brien emphasized that Geauga Prosecutor, Jim Flaiz, cannot represent one municipal entity in a conflict with another entity of the same municipality, hence the necessity of hiring an outside attorney.

Overall, the demeanor of attendees from Russell Township was less than courteous and civil. Known members of the Democratic Party, including Trustee Jim Mueller, and individuals who are not Russell residents, appeared antagonistic and politically-motivated to the detriment of civic activity. A security guard was visible. The meeting adjourned at 8:11 P.M. after O'Brien and Butters approved the purchase of digital recording equipment and authorization to pay warrants 2019-2024. Although Trustee Gabrain commented in glowing terms about the participation of Russell residents in “civic affairs,” it was obvious to this writer that most of those in attendance were motivated by a partisan agenda only. It was a great disappointment to witness and hear loud comments and pounding on tables in the obvious effort of individuals to gain attention any way they could. Shame on you, Trustee Gabrain.

Published June 1, 2016

You may recall reading here about the adventures of Eclipse Companies with a rock pile that Auburn Trustees have come to identify not so affectionately as Mount Auburn. For our loyal supporters who remember the Eclipse Companies/Auburn Township game of footsie that originated two years ago in a mock court action, we wish to announce that Eclipse Companies were originally granted the right to stockpile crushed concrete (aggregate) for certain paving jobs until October 15. 2015, by virtue of the original “judgment entry” signed by Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Birdie [sic] Matheney and Eclipse attorney Gregory O'Brien, husband of Bainbridge Trustee/Attorney Kristina O'Brien and counsel for Eclipse Companies.

You may best remember Ms. Matheney as the Geauga County Common Pleas Court judge candidate who failed in spite of a $40,000+ war chest to make the grade during the March 2016 primary contest but will surely raise her toothiness in cobra-like fashion for the next Common Pleas Court primary in March 2018. You may recall that we expressed our concern on December 1, 2015, in a commentary titled “More Tales from the Rock Pile at Mount Auburn” that self-avowed cum laude law grad Matheney failed to exact a bond from Eclipse to guarantee that the stockpiled aggregate would be removed by the stated deadline within the judgment entry.

You may remember the language of the second judgment entry between Matheney ( working at considerable expense to Geauga County taxpayers to carry out the inner sanctum wishes of the tin-badge toting three Auburn trustees). That language read in part, “Appellant shall be permitted the processed aggregate currently stored on the properties provided it is removed entirely from the Properties by May 31, 2016.” Just like the first judgment entry, the most current one, enacted in late November, 2015, carries no penalty nor loss of assets for failure to comply. Is this the result of stupidity or the result of a corrupted legal system perhaps involving the compliance of the Prosecutor himself?

For those of you who take note of things like dates, it is now June 1, 2016. Check out the property on Ravenna Road owned by Curt Huffman. There is still a significant amount of aggregate even though the Eclipse trucks are moving in and out. What would happen if you, fair reader, had violated a judgment entry enacted at Geauga County taxpayer expense? Do you think you would have been ruled in contempt?

What's wrong here? Keep these wrongs in mind as another incumbent Common Pleas judge steps down because of advanced age and provides yet another opportunity (the fourth or fifth in as many years) for an insider to usurp power for her stupid (or her foxy) attempts to favor the Good Old Boys yet again.

How many times will the taxpayers/voters of Geauga County allow a few individuals to circumvent the awesome responsibility imposed by the fair administration of legal judgment. . .? As many times as they allow themselves to be hypnotized by the teeth of a she-cobra.

Published May 24, 2016

In surprise appearances, Department of Health Director, Robert Weisdack, and Planning Commissioner, David Dietrich, were interrupted when one of the county commissioners expressed concern that a regular commissioner meeting was being delayed and called for a vote that resulted in approval of the United States Geological Survey water-monitoring program from June 1, 2016 to September 1, 2017, at a cost of $54,000 to Geauga County taxpayers. Showing up unannounced about 9:45 A.M., Weisdack insisted that continuation of the USGS contract was a way to mine the data until the county can set up better assessment. In a rare commentary Weisdack appeared to add a cryptic note; “The last thing we need is a contaminated aquifer.” Dietrich showed up a few minutes later, appearing to offer less personal commentary than Weisdack. Nevertheless, he was able to assure Commissioners that “I can get a contract if that is what you want me to do.”

Commissioner Spidalieri appeared eager to demonstrate that he disagreed with Commissioner Claypool's conclusion that the $54,000 bill was not the best use of taxpayer money. Claypool was in the midst of asserting, “If we utilize the 1 ½ year option, we will remove the sense of emergency to resolve the problem,” when Spidalieri interrupted. “I disagree. We've got professionals to make decisions. . . A committee will be in place by September 2016. I sure hope we don't have this mess again.” The last statement appeared to contrast starkly with Spidalieri's earlier comment: “I applaud Commissioner Claypool.”

About 10 A.M., Commissioner Rear noted, “This came up in the middle of a meeting. Let's call for a vote.” Claypool added, “You two guys have been very patient. I'm willing to go along with you guys.” The final vote was 3-0 in favor of accepting the $54,000 agreement from USGS as a bridge agreement to permit Geauga County the time to set up a county groundwater monitoring program. The Geauga County Planning Commission will take a predominant role in establishing procedures to effect the transition.

Published May 7, 2016

The May 2, 2016, Auburn Township Trustee Meeting started off with four stated guests, but only two showed up, one of whom not a guest at all, but an apparent victim of Auburn Township Trustee Eberly's bully mode. Ken Zwolinski, who runs Ken's Auto Body Shop, was the first order of business. Those present got to hear Eberly whine and cry how Auburn had spent thousands and thousands on the five-mile long Shaw Road in the last ten years, while Troy had neglected little forty-foot wide, one-half mile long Snow Road, where the majority of residents are from Troy, with the exception of perhaps two or three Auburn households. Eberly seemed thoroughly to enjoy relating how he reveled in “just making residents happy” by making it possible for them to drive their cars down Snow Road “without losing their exhaust systems.”

By this time, Zwolinski noted that Eberly's participation in creating an agreement between Troy and Auburn to split the responsibilities of maintaining Shaw and Snow Roads was “news to me.”

“Why is that?” asked Eberly dryly.

Zwolinski noted that Troy employees had only recently found an apparent copy of an Auburn-Troy agreement from the early 1990s, but prior to that he had not been familiar with that obligation.

On a role, Eberly noted that recently in response to a few complaints from Auburn residents on Snow Road and without contacting anyone from Troy Township, he ordered Road Superintendent Emerick Gordon to take necessary action to remove potholes after a period of two years when Troy had not taken care of its responsibilities on Snow Road. Noting that Snow Road is only forty-foot wide, he emphasized the gargantuan role undertaken by the Auburn road crew on Shaw Road at huge financial cost. Further, Eberly noted that in the hour and one-half time period that it took the Auburn Township road crew to fill pretty horrible potholes, a total of one car came down the road.

So, why would Auburn Trustees and road crew make these repairs without contacting Troy Township Trustees to give them an opportunity to keep up their end of the bargain? To make residents “happy,” as he noted or to be able to grandstand by humiliating a trustee of a neighboring township during a public forum? Before the conversation was over, Eberly had told Zwolinski where to cut down trees, what kind of material to apply to the road, the need for a “a couple of tons of asphalt” for Troy Township to have on hand for spot repairs, and the need to add eighteen inches to the level of the road on the Troy side. Zwolinski, to his credit, remained calm and answered in measured tones and cadences. Several times he noted he would be talking to his road superintendent [“Bob”] and getting back to Eberly to advise what Troy would be doing. Zwolinski noted the difficulties of Snow Road: its narrowness and difficult culverts, among other challenges. He excused himself in gentlemanly fashion.

Long after the Auburn meeting was over, several attendees expressed concern over the typical “know-it-all” attitude for which John Eberly has become notoriously known as a tactless dolt throughout Geauga County.

Published May 1, 2016

Some folks in beautiful Geauga County are aware that there was a bipartisan primary election on March 15, 2016, about six weeks ago. With rare exceptions, the political signs are now history. Although there were contests for candidates in both the Republican and Democratic camps, the former, without any surprise, drew the largest participation, and the contests for Common Pleas judge and County Commissioner were the hottest races. Those of you who visit this website with any frequency are aware that we issued pre-election commentary concerning both these two races. The current commentary is an analysis of the outcome of one of the two commissioner contests.

The three-way contest among Nicholas Fischbach, Nancy McArthur, and Ralph Spidalieri was, in our opinion, the most intriguing competition of the Geauga County primary season. Now that it is clear that incumbent Commissioner Spidalieri will be the Republican standard bearer against Democrat Ron Wiech of Middlefield Village, it is interesting to make some observations about the distribution of the final vote and the voters who decided the final outcome. First off, according to the Geauga County Board of Elections, Spidalieri received 9818 votes to McArthur's 7375, a difference of 2443. Interestingly, former Burton mayor, Nick Fischbach, whose campaign costs and exposure were minimal, received about 2500 votes. Had those votes been cast for McArthur, she would have been the victor whose campaign, starting August 2015, would have been the longest. During the same time Spidalieri was making noises about his interest in running for sheriff. His silence, in the meantime, about his intentions in the commissioner contest may have confused or disillusioned some registered Republicans. Moreover, had Fischbach not participated, Spidalieri could have amassed a landslide of votes; alternatively, McArthur might have squeezed a very slim victory.

As a result, the most interesting phenomenon about this race was the role of Phil King, mayor of Chardon City from 2010-2015, a well-known face connected with social rehabilitation reform. At any rate, as the three-way Commissioner race exploded into the home stretch, the Spidalieri campaign sent a postcard to registered Republicans only in Chardon City. For the rest of registered county Republicans who did not receive the postcard, we have included it here because we consider it an pivotal psychological asset for Spidalieri. It alone would not have assured Spidalieri's victory, but its timely appearance provided a strong incentive for the registered Republican faithful.

The full-color postcard, showing former Chardon mayor, Phil King shaking hands with a beaming Spidalieri, notes in huge capital letters that Spidalieri has demonstrated “PROVEN COUNTY LEADERSHIP.” Additionally, King, as Chardon's mayor from 2010 until December 31, 2015, had plenty of opportunity to understand the leadership style and self-proclaimed accomplishments of Commissioner candidate Nancy McArthur during her tenure as Vice-Mayor, Chardon council member, and chairman of the Geauga County Republican Central Committee. King's endorsement noted that incumbent Commissioner Spidalieri had “kept his promises.” Most prominently placed was King's signature attached to the statement that Spidalieri “IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR GEAUGA COUNTY COMMISSIONER.”

It has been reported that Phil King is an Old Guard Republican. Most certainly he could have just as easily endorsed McArthur had he believed in the superiority of her proclaimed accomplishments. His bold endorsement of Ralph Spidalieri, as well Fischbach's role as spoiler, were the factors that prompted McArthur's prominent defeat after two unsuccessful runs for state office in the last few years.

Published April 27, 2016

There have been two “meetings” organized in 2016 to deal with what some critics view to be a conundrum threatening some 95,000 residents in Geauga County but which have not attracted attention from the elected officials in Chardon City, Burton Village, South Russell Village, or a number of other Geauga municipalities. What's going on?

You may or may not recall that back in the early autumn an annual renewal of a contract costing approximately $23,500 quietly lapsed, although there was a review by the Geauga County Planning Commission in September, followed by a review/presentation/overview of the work done by the United States Geological Survey for the Geauga Township Association quarterly meeting in November 2015. According to those presentations and the annual report of the USGS, Geauga County and the USGS have had an annual monitoring contract since 1978, Since this is the first written report that we have seen, we are not personally aware of any previous written analyses provided by the USGS.

This latest publication is entitled Groundwater Quality in Geauga County, Ohio---including Detection Frequency of Methane, 2009, and Changes during 1978-2009 by Martha L. Jagucki, Stephanie P. Kula, and Brian E. Mailot. This publication notes that there is a huge body of data regarding a number of water wells in Geauga County, although the report but Ohio Environment makes it apparent that much of that data is not USGS data, but governmental agency data to which USGS has had second-hand access. The report appears to reference random data from additional water wells but also indicates that some of these “other” wells have been eliminated from inclusion in the current report because as private wells, their participation in the reporting process has been eliminated because of either change of ownership or refusal of owner(s) to continue cooperation with the USGS program. Additionally, there are references to changed procedures. All in all, the report appears to indicate inconsistencies in monitoring policies, procedures, and outcomes while understating evidence Ohio that has been available without apparent cost to anyone in the public/private sector who chooses to do the research or ask questions via the FOIA methodology.

According to the USGS report,
“During 1996-2012 water levels in most wells were stable. . .However, water levels in four of the 31 network wells—GE 119 [Middlefield}, GE 136 [Middlefield]. GE 352 [Middlefield], and GE 349 [Claridon]--began declining sometime after 1996. . .A fourth Middlefield well [GE 147],
not part of the long-term groundwater level network, began to decline in 1986.” (Ibid., p.10)

“The occurrence of dissolved natural gas in Geauga County aquifers has neither been previously evaluated by the USGS nor examined by any of the previous water quality studies. . . In 2008, based on an Ohio Department of Natural Resources study, ODNR concluded the occurrence of natural gas in groundwater for wells developed in the Berea-Bedford sequence is common in Geauga County.” (Ibid, p. 36)

Water quality results included in the current USGS report were, by the agency's own words, obtained from the Ohio EPA'S Safe Drinking Water Information database. (Ibid., p.21). USGS claims to have evaluated groundwater quality to answer the following questions ( Ibid., p.26):

    1) Are there any constituents in groundwater in 2009 that may adversely affect human health?
    2) How do concentrations compare to those found elsewhere in Ohio?
    3) How frequently is methane detected?
    4) Have concentrations changed?
    5) What factors affect concentrations?

The answers appear to be the following (Ibid):
“Safety of drinking water at the tap is reported by water utilities annually in consumer confidence reports that are issued to customers.”

“For public-supply wells or well fields serving 25 or more people, benchmarks based on MCLs are legally enforceable by the USEPA. However domestic wells in Geauga County are only required to meet the health-based benchmarks for total coliform, Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, and other fecal indicator microorganisms (Ohio Department of Health,2011a). The total coliform benchmark is established by the Ohio Administrative Code and enforced by the Geauga County Health District (2010a). . .Detections of total coliform and nitrate have not become more frequent countywide from 1986 to 2009, even though the county population has increased during this period.” (Ibid, p.46)

“Arsenic, total coliform, fecal coliform, and sodium “were excluded in some domestic well samples. Some samples from public supply wells exceeded human health benchmarks for cadmium, lead, and sodium.” (Ibid., p.27)

“The list of constituents analyzed has not been consistent over the years, the filtering (or non filtering) of the samples prior to analysis has not been consistent, and instrumentation, analytical methods, and reporting levels have changed.” (Ibid, p,38)

“Apparent changes over time in specific conductance and silica concentrations may actually be caused by lab bias rather than by actual changes in constituent concentrations in groundwater.” (Ibid.)

“The majority of constituents showed no consistent temporal trend in concentration” but “dissolved oxygen, calcium, sulfate concentrations and chlorine:bromine ratios increased over time. . .while pH and concentrations of bromine and dissolved organic carbon decreased over time. Many of these results are similar to these observed between 1986 and 1999 or between 1999 and 2009. . .” (Ibid., p.42)

“As of 2010. ten known areas of localized groundwater contamination in the county—most associated with commercial and industrial activities—had been documented by either the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Division of Drinking and Ground Water or Division of Response and Restoration or the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Mineral Resources Management(ODNR MRM). Contaminants in these areas are typically chlorinated VOCs [Volatile Organic Compounds], gasoline compounds, and (or) road salt, and, in one case, methane. Remediation has occurred or is underway at most of these sites to remove harmful constituents from groundwater.” (Ibid., p.71) As an aside, the writers of this report are personally aware of contamination of this nature reported in the Hickory Lake area of Newbury by a bankrupt trucking entity and in Middlefield by two industrial entities ( Carlisle and Johnson Rubber) both bankrupt by 2008. This documentation is not the original analysis of USGS, but a borrowing of information from the cited state agencies and reports widely reported in news media like Cleveland Scene and readily accessible without cost.

USGS explains many of its outcomes as early as page 1 of the report: “ The majority of constituents exceeding health-based and aesthetically based benchmarks in groundwater were those that are naturally present in aquifer rocks and sediments rather than constituents introduced by human activities.” In other words, human activity appears not to be causing chemical changes in the groundwater, a conclusion reached by USGS on more than one occasion in the USGS report. Therefore, the presence of arsenic in significant areas of Geauga County are naturally-occurring, This conclusion, however, does not necessarily support the concerns of Bainbridge Township, which has no wells monitored by USGS, and the events in Middlefield Village, which has no zoning nor any apparent limitations on industrial development and the subsequent effects upon Middlefield groundwater. For the record, Middlefield Village appears to be the only municipality which has experienced a drop in the level of extant drinking water at a time when the other wells appear to have a constant level of water.

Martha Jagucki, one of the authors of the USGS report cited above and a hydrologist with the USGS at least since the 1978 initial contract between Geauga County and U.S.G.S., appeared before the Geauga County Planning Commission at its September 8, 2015, monthly meeting. Indicating that USGS studied fifteen constituents in Geauga groundwater (including alkalinity, methane, arsenic, nitrogen, phosphorous, and pesticides, Ms. Jagucki concluded that “concentrations of nitrate, pesticides, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were either low or not detected in groundwater samples from domestic and (or) public supply wells.”

Additionally, Ms. Jagucki noted that the “lack of widespread human impact on water quality” supports “existing low density residential zoning,” an apparent reference to the Ohio Supreme Court decision of July 18, 1990, [ 89-693;52 Ohio St.3d 239( 1990)]. Known officially as Ketchel et al,. Appellants, v. Bainbridge Township et al., Appellees, the decision, with the complete concurrence of Justices Moyer, Sweeney, and Douglas with Holmes, Wright, and Brown concurring in part and dissenting in part, held “that township trustees may state minimum lot sizes in the exercise of the zoning authority conferred by R.C. 519.02 [upon townships]. Further, “[t]he Bainbridge Township Zoning Resolution states that the purpose of the R-3A zoning classification is to 'provide for the development of lands . . .in accordance with the ability of such lands to support development without central water supply and/or central sewerage disposal facilities, to prevent pollution of such lands and the underlying aquifers. . .'” In their conclusion, the Ohio Supreme Court wrote, “The record supports a township decision that the use of the property should be restricted to agriculture, single-family dwellings, churches, schools, public recreation, governmental buildings, and cemeteries, and that the density of population on the property should be limited to conserve the water supply. The record also supports a determination that a three-acre lot requirement advances a legitimate interest in the health, safety, or welfare of the community.” Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the [eleventh district] court of appeals.”

At the end of her presentation, Ms. Jagucki presented four cost options to Geauga County for Fiscal Year 2016 (October 1, 2015- September 30, 2016):
    Option 1, “Business as usual,” would cost Geauga Commissioners $23,500 with USGS
                  underwriting $11,500 of the $35,000 total.
    Option 2, Hourly measurements at six instrumented wells, would cost the Commissioners
                 $15,000 with the USGS underwriting $7500 of the $22,500 total.
    Option 3, Manual measurements at 31 wells once/year, would cost the Commissioners
                 $10,000 with USGS underwriting $5000 of the total $15,000 bill.
    Option 4, Manual measurements at 31 wells 4 times/year would cost the Commissioners
                 $16,000 with USGS underwriting $8000 of the $24,000.

No matter which option was to be chosen, the USGS would underwrite a portion of the total cost. Interestingly, the option routinely chosen by Geauga Commissioners in the past required a 67.01% payment from the county, whereas Options 2, 3, and 4 required 66.67% financing by the county.

The members of the Planning Commission voted to recommend continuance of Option 1 with expected commissioner approval no later than October 31, 2015. Interestingly, though, a communication from Planning Commission Director, Dave Dietrich, on September 10, 2015, noted that “an agreement has not been forwarded by USGS to us for consideration, yet.”

In a March 31, 2016, letter addressed to the Geauga County Board of Commissioners regarding the County Groundwater Monitoring Follow up Meeting [sic] and copied to the Bainbridge Fiscal Officer, Jim Dvorak of Burton Township, PJ Cavanagh of Auburn Township, Justin Madden of Russell Township, and Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney in the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office, Bainbridge Trustee Lorrie A. Benza noted, “Following a presentation by Martha Jagucki of the USGS at our November 2015 GCTA meeting, several townships came together to look into the matter on our own. As you are well aware, roughly 95% of Geauga residents and businesses are served by groundwater. Moreover, the empirical data for aquifer levels is examined and often incorporated into various township land use plans, upon which our township zoning resolutions are based.

. . . “When trustees learned that your board had not yet renewed the USGS monitoring contract, nor fully communicated with USGS representatives, several township trustees convened on our own to discuss the matter. We met in Russell Township on February 16, 2016. and Commissioner Claypool appeared on your behalf. It was during that meeting that we learned for the first time, that the Commissioners had opted to explore whether there might be better, more cost-effective monitoring options available to provide this service. We appreciate and commend the Commissioners for fully vetting cost effective ways to maintain services important to our residents.

“. . .there may be a variety of agencies doing various types of aquifer monitoring throughout Geauga County that may in fact serve the need which has been provided until now by USGS. For example, OEPA, ODNR, and Geauga County Water Resources each do some type of well monitoring.

. . . “The various trustees who came together to discuss this important issue, hope to learn where it stands. To that end, please feel free to join us on April 5th. In the meantime, if you would be so kind as to share with us the following information, it would help us to be much more productive at this meeting.

“ * The identified summary or spreadsheet that Gerry [sic] Morgan [Director of Geauga County Department of Water Resources] completed on this matter, at your request;

“* A statement of what, if any, official action your board has taken relative to the expired USGS groundwater monitoring program since we last met on February 16th;

“ * A summary of any communication with either USGS representatives or other similar agencies that you have considered to provide this service for Geauga residents;

“ * Any additional information that you believe would be helpful in our follow up meeting.”

In response to Mrs. Benza's letter, Commissioner Claypool responded on April 1, 2016:
“The ground water monitoring initiative was brought to the Commissioner's [sic] attention during the fall; however, our office did not receive any formal request or a contract to consider for deliberation. That being said, I had questions about the existing program and I began to seek answers to these questions in order to form my own opinions on the topic.

“We have invested well over $300,000.00 to develop a 20 year profile, which appears to be giving us the same answer year after year. We have a stable aquifer. That raises a number of questions which include:
    *What are the goals and objectives of the effort, and are we achieving them?
    *What have we learned, are we learning anything new year to year, are we accomplishing
      anything material in continuing the existing effort?
    *Is the current assessment being used, by whom, how, and how often?
    *Would a different approach provide more value and/or save tax payer dollars?”

Included with the letter from Commissioner Claypool was a three page review of water well testing in Geauga County with the date of March 30, 2016, and signed by Gerard R. Morgan,Director of the Geauga County Department of Water Resources. Morgan first provided a list of the water well test sites as follows:
    *The three Municipal water systems (Burton, Chardon, and Middlefield) each check water
      level daily and test water quality every six months
    *The Department of Water Resources can check both water level and quality regularly
    *The Ohio EPA samples three locations for potential contamination from pollutants, but it
      is currently unknown how often the checks occur at McFarland Corners, Chesterland,
      and Middlefield Village
    *The EPA samples three public water system locations (ASM International, Middlefield
      Wellfield, and Tanglewood Water Company) every 18 months
    *USGS under the county contract tests both water levels and additionally continuously
      monitors Fawn Court and Kensington Circle and periodically monitors Bell Road
      at Spring Drive, Burton Bush Circle, Parkland Drive, Silver Spring Trail, and Garden Park
      Drive, all in South Russell

Morgan proposed water depth and quality evaluation from Chardon, Burton, and Middlefield; from
Scranton Woods and Services Center; and from the Valley View waste water treatment plants in Chester, Thompson, Parkman, Auburn Corners, and Russell Park.

He also offered the following annual cost schedule of $7281.00
    *One check per month of five wells at the rate of $50 per hour =$400 per eight-hour day
      plus 79.5 miles of travel per month @ .40 per mile for a total of $31.80
    *One check per month of two wells at the water system at $50 per hour= $100 with no
      mileage charge because monitoring would occur during normal daily route of water operators
    * One hour of data compiling per month at the rate of $75

Additionally, if Water Resources needed to purchase more elaborate monitoring equipment, the start-up equipment costs would be $42,500 with ongoing annual costs of $1375

At the April 26, 2016, Commissioner Meeting, Planning Commissioner David Detrich noted that no contract from USGS has been offered by USGS to the County. At the same meeting Commissioners Spidalieri and Claypool noted that by the next Commissioner meeting (May 3 is canceled because of an Opiate Conference in Columbus) of May 10, all the options should be narrowed down to the one most feasible, and by May 17, there should be a contract for Commissioners to approve at public meeting.

Based on events that we have witnessed, we have come to the conclusion that some trustees have found the topic of water monitoring to be favorable to political speculation and even rabble-rousing. We choose to note the comments of two trustees, Patrick Cavanagh of Auburn Township and Jim Mueller of Russell Township. Cavanagh at the February 16 initial meeting of township trustees referenced earlier in the letter to Commissioner Claypool by Bainbridge Trustee, Lorrie Benza, specifically noted that townships could not afford to pay for their own monitoring programs. Jim Mueller at the April 5 meeting ranted that the cost of the monitoring program (based on $23,500) would amount to about $.25 per resident to “guarantee” the safety of the county water supply. Ironically, though Mueller's approach appeared to create a moral criticism of commissioners as being unprepared and unconscionable, his cost estimate appears to create an interesting dilemma for “morally-conscious” elected township officials.

We have prepared a table (see below) to demonstrate the locations of monitored wells and the cost to each township to underwrite a “safe water monitoring” should township trustees feel a moral obligation to continue with the USGS study. Curiously, as the table shows, some townships have no wells to monitor and consequently no cost if they would choose to continue with the USGS monitoring. Other townships have multiple wells and might therefore be expected to have correspondingly higher monitoring costs. At any rate, the table appears to demonstrate just how reasonably-priced such a monitoring program could be. Such an undertaking would certainly show that Geauga trustees, especially Russell's Mueller, could put their money where their moralistic tongues are and end a problem, if there really is a problem besides the industrial pollutants in Middlefield, where industrial companies have managed in a zoning-free atmosphere to undermine the health, welfare, and safety of their community without any negative consequences. While we should be impressed with Mr. Mueller's editorial comment that he personally took four hours on a Saturday morning to read the entire contents of the USGS cited report, we are instead disappointed that he did not choose to analyze the inconsistencies and lack of original data within the actual USGS report. In conclusion, based on the comments of both Cavanagh and Mueller, we conclude that concerns voiced at the two groundwater “conferences” amount to Geauga politics as usual.
Township  EPA
   Well #
  Population  Farmilies    cost to township
   based on number
           of Families
      cost to township
     based on number
  of wells in township
Auburn  0  2  151 & 165      5,158  1,484    $1,329.85   $2,875.00 
Bainbridge  7  0      -   10,916  3,106    $2,783.37               0
Burton  1  1   234     5,808  1,526    $1,367.49    $1,437.50
Chardon  1  1   185A     9,919  2,714    $2,432.09    $1,437.50
Chester  2  2  77 & 120   10,968  3,210    $2,876.57    $2,875.00  
Claridon  0  0     -      5,135     981    $   879.10               0
Hambden  0  1   103     4,024  1,144    $1,025.17    $1,437.50
Huntsburg  0  0    -      3,277     737    $   660.45               0
Middlefield  2  1   147     6,651  1,571    $1,407.82    $1,437.50
Mountville  0  1   202     1,948     569    $   509.90    $1,437.50
Munson  0  2  109 & 108     6,450  1,768    $1,584.35   $2,875.00  
Newbury  1  1    85A     5,805  1,628    $1,458.90    $1,437.50
Parkmen  0  1    126     3,546     804    $   720.49    $1,437.50
Russell  1  1    332   10,286  3,086    $2,765.45    $1,437.50
Thompson  0  1    341     2,383     662    $   523.24    $1,437.50
Troy  0  1    141     2,567     676    $   605.78    $1,437.50

We hope for the best outcome at the county level for resolution of a problem that appears not to be a problem except for residents of Middlefield village.

Published April 12, 2016

At the Tuesday, April 5 Groundwater Conference in Bainbridge Township, seven of 16 Geauga townships were represented as a result of Geauga Commissioners' not yet signing the annual U.S. Geological Service contract to monitor water-well depth in Geauga County. Touted as an annual ritual since 1978, the annual contract has typically cost Geauga County Commissioners about $23,000 with about $11,000 being subsidized by USGS. Because the contract was not signed in the late fall of 2015, some elected Geauga officials, organized by Geauga Township Association President and Burton Trustee, Jim Dvorak, decided on their own to have groundwater meetings that they publicized in local newsprint media.

The video shot during the April 5 meeting notes that Auburn, Bainbridge, Burton, Chester, Middlefield, Hamden, Newbury, South Russell were represented. James Mueller, a Democratic Trustee from Russell, appeared to be particularly vitriolic toward Commissioner Claypool for non-renewal of the USGS contract, with Democratic Trustee Ron Wiech of Middlefield, and Commissioner Blake Rear of Munson particularly incensed about what they concluded as lack of safety and welfare for Geauga County residents in those communities.

Jim Mueller claimed to have read the USGS manual in about four hours on a recent Saturday morning. His major argument appeared to be that the USGS survey represented a cost of about $.25 for each of the approximate 100,000 residents of the county. Commissioner Walter Skip Claypool, who had informed in writing well in advance that he would be out of the country during the April 5 meeting, seemed by his absence to invite animosity from many in attendance. Ron Wiech told everyone how polluted groundwater, resulting in a large number of abandoned private wells belonging to members of the Amish community, had resulted in the need for Middlefield to dig its own wells deeper in order to be able to supply Amish residents with a clean supply of water. Further, Wiech cited the polluting activities of unnamed industrial companies [Carlisle Industries and Johnson Rubber]. What he did not say but what became evident from doing personal research was that both those entities, both bankrupt from about 2008, have been widely investigated by the federal and state Environmental Protection
Agencies for creating large toxic areas of trichloroethylene and other toxic substances, which in spite of the the disappearance of Carlisle and Johnson, appear to be creating larger beds of waste in Tare Creek.

Although the wells in Middlefield monitored by the USGS annual study demonstrate decreased water depth of monitored drinking water wells, there appear to be no efforts to curtail industrial use of water in Middlefield. While an area of concern, these actions resulting from lack of zoning in Middlefield do not, in this writer's opinion, create a responsibility of Geauga County Commissioners to fund the solution to the Middlefield water problem. Middlefield is the only municipality in Geauga County without some kind of zoning to guarantee continued large-lot (3 acre) zoning because of the established need for an ample supply of groundwater in wells. Ketchel v. Bainbridge, resolved in the Ohio Supreme Court about 1992, demonstrated that density of development in Geauga townships was limited by the availability of clean groundwater in Geauga County.

Commissioner Blake Rear labeled the Geauga County Commissioners as “dysfunctional,” appearing to bemoan being in a position of weakness and unable to introduce topics for discussion and motion from the floor during Geauga County Commissioner meetings, which typically occur at 9 A.M. every Tuesday in Commissioner Chambers at 470 East Center Street in Chardon City. Further, he stated his opinion that he is likely to be excluded from any meaningful discussion on topics of importance for the commissioners. Some members, especially Bainbridge Trustee Laurie Sass Benza, he said, were likely to have interpreted Claypool's actions as the mutual accomplishments of all three Commissioners. Rear additionally noted that the Commissioners had taken a vote to bypass the USGS survey during the first quarter of 2016, indicating that his own opinions had been downplayed or ignored and that therefore he had been merely included in the vote without adequate or meaningful representation. Further research, however, indicated that such a vote has been indefinitely tabled pending further investigation into the merits of renewing the USGS contract or in exploring other options.

Trustee Benza recounted her efforts to communicate with the three Commissioners in an effort to get an accurate viewpoint of the USGS well-monitoring program. Benza noted that she expected to see most of the individuals present at the April 13, 2016, quarterly Geauga Township Association dinner meeting, at which time she would be distributing communication extended by her on behalf of the Groundwater Committee.

In general, the outcome of the April 5 Groundwater meeting, in the absence of Mr. Claypool, appeared to disintegrate into a political conundrum in which those not present were subject to personal attack from those apparently seeking to gain the support of the newsprint media.

At the meeting of the April 12 Geauga County Commissioners meeting, Commissioner Claypool invited both the Director of the Geauga Planning Commission, David Dietrick, and the Director of Geauga County Water Resources to comment on the appropriateness of investigating the efficiency of the United States Geological Service Contract. Both individuals noted that the ongoing investigation undertaken by Mr. Claypool is appropriate and warranted. There is no doubt that if the USGS well-monitoring service needs to be renewed, then that possibility, complete with one-third subsidy by USGS, can be reinstated without unfavorable consequences to county residences. As it stands, there is to be a special meeting by Commissioners Claypool, Spidalieri, and Rear to hear testimony from Dietrick, the Director of Geauga Water Resources, and Martha Jagucki, a long-time researcher with USGS on the status of the Geauga County water wells. The public is not invited to this session.

At the conclusion of public business on April 12, 2016, Auburn resident Thomas E. Jones, voiced a question for Commissioner Blake Rear. “At the meeting in Bainbridge [April 5] you said the Commissioners are dysfunctional. I don't understand. You have equal standing with the other two Commissioners. You can contribute to the agenda anytime you wish. What makes you think you are dysfunctional?”

Commissioner Rear, as shown in the video, appeared to become very quiet, noting thereafter that he had referred to “the Commissioners” being dysfunctional. Rear responded to Jones with the note that “you are zinging me from the audience. You're here all the time. If you think that the operation of this board is how it should be, then we're on two different planets, sir. I'm leaving. I move to adjourn.”

Check out the two videos directly quoting Mr. Rear. We question the functionality and maturity of a publicly-elected official who is so offended at being asked a question that he chooses to run away and be dysfunctional.

Published April 5, 2016

We have written before about scurrilous Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals hearings and the resultant pieces of litigation. Since late fall 2015 two administrative appeals have been filed under Geauga County Common Pleas Judge Forrest Burt with well-founded reports that a third legal action may be imminently filed against the Auburn Township Trustees, who bear responsibility for any actions taken by the BZA. Last week one of the two cases, 15A000685, was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice on March 30, 2016, by appellants Evan and Ashley Kay with the Geauga County Common Pleas Court understanding, that the appeal can be refiled by March 29, 2017.

Watch the video and listen to the testimony presented by Auburn Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko. Admittedly, Kitko's oral comments appear slurred and difficult to understand without 100% attention. Nevertheless, we heard Kitko note that the Appellants dismissed the case without coming to judgment entry, as well as accuse “the lady” [appellant Mrs. Kay] of adding more livestock. Appellant, when reached for comment, asserted that Kitko's information was erroneous.

Kitko also asserted that Auburn Township's Assistant Prosecutor, failed judicial candidate Mary Brigid Matheney, would be conducting an investigation regarding the events of 15A000685. Listen further to Kitko's assertion that he would be about cleaning up the property with the apparent purpose of removing certain structures on the property on Jacobs Lane. We would like to remind Kitko that dismissal of the case by the Kays appears to render as moot any “investigation” to be undertaken by Matheney.

Note that the case in hand deals with Auburn Township's attempt to zone agriculture. Ohio Revised Code 519.21 prohibits townships from zoning entities engaged in architecture, although villages and cities do retain the right to so regulate. From previous articles presented here, we have noted that Jacobs Lane is a non-dedicated street with four residences, including one belonging to the Auburn Township Assistant Fire Chief, Michael Cardamon. The Kays have been long-term breeders of miniature goats and have recognition within the goat industry.

We will continue to follow the events in this BZA issue, as well as the other legal action filed in
October 2015 and a rumored third legal action resulting from the February 2016 decisions rendered by the BZA.

Published March 18, 2016

Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz thought he was going to get a supplemental budget request of $63,000 for the remainder of the 2016 financial year by simply showing up at the March 15 9 A.M public commissioner meeting. Moreover, there were only about three tems on the agenda; he expected to be in and out of there like Jumpin' Jack Flash. It did not work out that way.

Mr. Flaiz was the third item on the agenda, and he hopped right up to the floral chair in front of Commissioners Claypool, Spidalieri, and Rear. He briskly announced his goal to hire an investigator for internet crimes, Flaiz announced.

Commissioner Claypool responded that in light of the $63,000 first-year expense, the $90,000 second-year expense, $456,000 fifth-year expense, and $1,000,000 ten-year expense, “I thought there would be more discussions. . . That's what citizens elected me for. . .I'm a little surprised [by the expenditure].”

Flaiz's responses were equally as entertaining. “I'm surprised you're surprised,” he quipped back in short, terse Claypool-esque fashion. I sat in your office for one hour to discuss budget requirement s for the remainder of the year. . . I saw a need here for you to throw those numbers around . . . is disingenuous.”

Claypool: “When you brought this up, the concept sounded good. . Much of internet crime is solved by parenting. . .I'm always a supporter of you and your office [but] given that amount of money, what will that money accomplish? . . .We put a lot of money into heroin, but we never asked the question if we are accomplishing what we wanted to accomplish.”

Flaiz: “These are two separate questions. The sheriff and I have always been available. . .If you want to talk about that, let's have a meeting. . .We can't stop the drug problem from coming from Mexico. The heroin issue is a separate issue. . . Everyone has this [internet scam] issue. The problem with the Ohio Bureau of Crime Investigation is that everyone is using it. They are overwhelmed at the state issue. Chester, Russell, South Russell, Chardon, Middlefield, Burton-- [do] not have a detective.”

Claypool: “Do we have a sense of the impact?”

Flaiz: “A lot of our crimes are happening as fraud. . . Everything is text messages.” Flaiz elaborated that his part-investigator with 150 hours of time logged into an ongoing internet investigation had been overwhelmed with that task and could not accomplish anything else. As a result, he concluded,” We have not been able to pursue these cases vigorously.”

Commissioner Spidalieri, quietly observing the dialog between Flaiz and Claypool, seemed to be aware that this was Election Day in Geauga County and voters might be listening, watching, and reading his observations. “My position is that when I left Shaker [Heights Police Department], we had this program in place and that was ten years ago. We're spending ten million on the sheriff's budget. . . It's time-consuming. . .The value is this: Citizens are bilked out of millions. I applaud Prosecutor Flaiz for bringing this forward. . .It's not a parenting issue. When parents find out, it's too late. We piss money away all the time on stupid stuff. I'll sign my name on this issue proudly.”

Claypool responded, “This type of crime is different from all other crime. . .All of us have gotten robocalls. This is a call of choice.”

Spidalieri countered, “It's not a crime of choice. With seniors it's a shill game. . .This is a com game. A lot of seniors are scared.”

Commissioner Rear, intent on the line of argument, finally chimed in. “It's not really productive to second-guess people whose jobs predict these outcomes. . . Is it going to become a bigger problem? . . .The time to buy something is when it's for sale. . .We need to bring this to a vote.”

Claypool: “Our job is to ask questions.”

Rear, who pounced on the moment, appeared to perform the best one-liner of the meeting in response to Commissioner Claypool: “When will the answer satisfy you?”

Flaiz, who was trying hard to maintain his decorum, remarked, “I do my own budget. In the end this is an incredibly low-price resource.”

About thirty minutes after the conversation had routinely begun, Commissioner Rear made the motion for the agenda item, approval of a $63,000 supplemental budget item for the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office to hire a special Information Technologist to to investigate internet-based fraud/identity theft. Claypool, last to cast his vote, created a unanimous affirmative vote to approve the budget item.

Roll over and die, all wicked internet-based corruption,fraud. and financial agony.

Published March 1, 2016

On February 9, 2016, the regular meeting of the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals drew a standing-room only crowd composed of an alleged violator of zoning code, the Auburn Township zoning inspector; two Auburn Township trustees [Cavanagh and Eberly], Geauga County Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney, two attorneys presenting the allegations, a court reporter, various contiguous neighbors, and six (five regular and an alternate) members of the BZA. The purpose of the meeting was to hear the sixteen allegations of zoning inspector error and zoning code violations against Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko in regards to latitude toward Nathan Tiber, owner and proprietor of Nathan's Auto Detailing (the name on Tiber's building permit)/ Brian Stewart, the BZA member in charge of the hearing, noted that in his thirteen years on the board, this meeting was a precedent.

Bringers of the complaints was Attorney Linda DeBernardi, an Auburn resident of more than 25 years who lives across the street from Nathan Tiber on Auburn Road, and Attorney Jim O'Leary. Nathan has lived and worked at the address since 2010, when he purchased the 1.3 acre property. By 2012, Nathan took out zoning permits to install a new driveway as well as a detached “residential accessory building.” As it worked out the “residential accessory building” was 1600 square feet, much bigger than the house itself with a septic permit that county authorities identified as a residential septic system, applied for by a previous owner in 2009. Said septic system is not authorized for any retail business, which Nathan's Auto Detailing apparently is. County building and EPA authorities have indicated that a retail business requires a commercial septic system. The actual septic system installation was a “2000 gallon tank with risers, baffles, filter” with a 180 degree curtain drain and a 600 foot infiltrator, completed on November 2, 2009, and inspected by Geauga County on November 4, 2009. When this writer requested the EPA septic permit for both the Auburn Township new service garage and for Nathan's Auto Detailing, Fiscal Officer supplied the former but stated in writing that no such permit has been issued to Nathan's.

At the BZA meeting presenters DeBernardi and O'Leary showed septic tank permits and photos that revealed the presence of multiple large vehicles, including cars and trucks, t at Nathan's to be washed to “show-room quality.” In performing such a function, Ms DeBernardi argued, Nathan's residential septic system was not capable of handling the runoff from chemicals and detergents that ran the risk of permeating ground water in the area and contaminating the drinking water supply for Auburn Corners. Groundwater pollution maps submitted by DeBernardi show that the highest potential for pollution in the location of Nathan's property is at a level of 180-199 on a scale of 0-200, substantiated by a letter from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources,, Division of Water, dated September 5, 2000, to then Auburn Zoning Commission Chairman, Paul Clemens. That letter states that “given a scenario that each household would use between 300 and 400 gallons [of water] per day, lot sizes should not be less than 0.75 acre if public water is not available. Having a higher density of wells could cause a decline in the ground water level in this area.” Because of the allegation that Nathan is/has been washing multiple cars, trucks, and other vehicles on-site at his retail establishment, it becomes fair to conclude that he is using far more than 300-400 gallons of water per day. This 2000 report was copied to David Dietrich, then/now Director of the Geauga County Planning Commission, and Rebecca Schlag, then/now Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. The conclusion is that multiple individuals were/are aware of the danger of excessive water use without the proper septic system to the groundwater safety of Auburn Township.

In addition, DeBernardi indicated that the groundwater could potentially become polluted with chemical substances. Long-term Geauga residents may recall similar circumstances when discoveries made by the Ohio EPA back in 2002 in Newbury Township were a follow-up to a groundswell of concern among Newbury Township residents that pollutants in the groundwater were a result of actions taken by Manfredi Trucking on Kinsman Road. Many can recall the huge incidence of cancer among residents of Newbury's Kiwanis Lake, where 125 of 151 homesteads experienced cancer in a 20-year period. (Attached)

Also presented to the BZA was the July 2001 documentation from the Federal EPA report titled Source Water Protection Practices bulletin: Managing Vehicle Washing to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water. The EPA expressed grave caution: “When vehicles are washed, contaminants in the wash water and the over-spray can enter source water untreated through surface runoff (e.g., through storm drains) and underground discharge (e.g., through car wash wells or septic systems). Vehicle wash water contains oil, grease, metal (paint chips), phosphates, detergents, soaps, cleaners, road salts, and other chemicals that can contaminate source water. . . .car wash wells, which inject wash water into the subsurface are categorized by EPA as Class V underground injection wells. In a 1999 EPA study on Class V wells, concerns were raised bout the use of car wash wells to dispose of wash water from 'wand washes' such as coin-operated, manual facilities where people use hand-held hoses to wash vehicles...[I[ndividuals may wash their engines or undercarriages using degreasers, wash the exterior of their vehicles with chemicals other than common soap solutions, or may pour used oil, antifreeze, or other hazardous materials down these drains.. . .The contaminants in vehicle wash water can cause a variety of health effects, including kidney damage, circulatory system problems, increased cancer risk, and delays in physical or mental development. . . . Local governments can use a variety of land use controls to protect source water from potential contamination. For example, zoning can restrict certain activities to specific geographic areas that are distant from drinking water sources. Localities can also prohibit certain uses within certain areas. For example, prohibition of vehicle washing activities in source water protection areas can reduce the risk that harmful contaminants may enter source water. . . .Washing areas should not be located near uncovered vehicle repair areas or chemical storage facilities: chemicals could be transported in wash water runoff.”

Ms. DeBernardi and Mr. O'Leary identified sixteen violations of Auburn Township Zoning Code with the continued operation of Nathan's Auto Detailing. Probably the most potent of the complaints, identified as BZA-16-02a, involved Zoning Inspector Kitko's failure to enforce Ohio EPA regulations: “That no development requiring sewer and water facilities be approved by the Zoning Inspector [Kitko] prior to approval by county health l3.01j], compliance with state and federal regulations [3.04(d)], [6.07(a)]. Complainant alleging the business permit should be 'null & [sic] void' due to noncompliance with EPA and septic laws.” Additionally, BZA-16-08a alleged “lack of enforcement, by the zoning inspector, has effectively issued a variance by allowing the car wash. . .”

There has been litigation, as recently as 2014-2015, disallowing “grandfathered” parcels, such as The Patio, to be able to expand size and/or range of services. Geauga County Common Pleas case 14-M-000622 was filed by none other than Assistant Prosecutor Mary Brigid Matheney on behalf of Auburn Township and Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko to limit the property rights of the owner of The Patio. That case was heard by Common Pleas Court Judge David Fuhry, whom Matheney would like to replace in the March 15, 2016, Geauga County Primary Election. The Patio litigation resulted in the need for The Patio to comply with all legal costs becoming the responsibility of the owner of The Patio. In light of The Patio litigation, DeBernardi's complaint BZA-16-14a alleged “error to allow a permit to enlarge, alter, or extend to occupy a greater area of land of a nonconforming use . . .[3.03(e)(1), (2), (3), (4), (5), (6), and (7)] B-1 district]. To date, however, lucky Nathan appears to be able to avoid any legal responsibility for the health, welfare, and safety issues to Auburn Corners residence—so far.

Anyone who has followed the Auburn Township BZA's activities during the last several years can attest that right or wrong the BZA will defend the Auburn Township Zoning Inspector just about unanimously, even if he disregards the Ohio Constitution/Ohio Revised Code. Thus BZA members believe that the only way they can be proved in error is if someone is willing to challenge the issue not only in Geauga County Common Pleas Court, which in nearly all cases supports local township trustees/BZA, but also in the Eleventh District Court of Appeals. In at least one BZA case of which we are aware, Assistant Prosecutor Matheney, having lost the case in Eleventh District Court of Appeals, challenged the ruling in the Ohio Supreme Court, only to be turned down by that body. In the meantime, Geauga County taxpayers paid the Prosecutor's Office dearly for the trustees'/Assistant Prosecutor's obsessive need to win at all costs.

Of no real surprise to veteran attendees of Auburn BZA meetings, all sixteen allegations of zoning inspector error brought by Linda DeBernardi were defeated by the BZA, The most ludicrous of the votes concerned BZA-16-02a, which required BZA members to repudiate federal and state law. On the other hand, as stated earlier, the Auburn Township BZA members, some of them appointed as long as thirteen years ago, apparently have no reverence or respect for the laws of the land. Given the choice of kissing the ass of the zoning inspector or disobeying state law, they apparently are willing to take their chances doing the former and betting that they will still get off scot-free at the local and county level. . . unless the voting electorate can remember to reject trustees who apparently delight in appointing individuals unwilling to uphold the Ohio Constitution/Ohio Revised Code. The next Auburn election for two trustees will be in 2017 with Troyan and Eberly up for consideration.

Here is the actual voting record for all five BZA members on the sixteen complaints of zoning inspector error as lodged against Inspector Frank Kitko, relative to Nathan's Auto Detailing at 17680 Auburn Road:

Pealer- no; Tomsic-no;Bellar-no; Freebairn-no;Stewart-no

Pealer-no; Tomsic-no; Bellar-no;Freebairn-no;Stewart-no

BZA-16-02a (EPA requirement of a commercial septic permit for a retail operation with a bathroom)
Pealer-no; Tomsic-no; Bellar-no; Freebairn-no; Stewart-no

Pealer-no; Tomsic-no;Bellar-no; Freebairn-no;Stewart-no



Pealer-no; Tomsic-no; Bellar-no; Freebairn-no;Stewart-no

Pealer-no; Tomsic-no;Bellar-no;Freebairn-no;Stewart-no

Pealer-no;Tomsic-no; Bellar-no;Freebairn-no;Stewart-no






BZA -16-14a
Pealer-no;Tomsic-no;Bellar-no; Freebairn-no; Stewart-no


Pealer-no;Tomsic-no; Bellar-no;Freebairn-no; Stewart-no

Are you sick of reading the same old-same old: five members all in lock-step to the point that they unanimously deny that their zoning inspector screwed up, even though he apparently did—multiple times? Perhaps if you are too disgusted with the miscarriage of zoning code, you may remember that the only way to get rid of them is to vote for new trustees. . .

At any rate, the Auburn Township BZA will present its final Findings of Fact and minutes from the February 8 kangaroo court on March 8 at 7 P.M. After that, Linda DeBernardi will have thirty days to file a case in Geauga County Common Pleas Court with David Fuhry or Forrest Burt. As you are undoubtedly aware, Fuhry has decided, perhaps wisely in view of decisions that have been overturned by the Eleventh District Court of Appeals as well as the tumultuous T.J. Lane case, to retire. Stay tuned. . . as Assistant Prosecutor Matheney attempts to become a Common Pleas Court judge with much baggage pulling her down as a result of unwise legal actions that are and will be haunting her.

Published February 26, 2016

We are exploring this topic because it was the subject of discussion at the February 23, 2016, Geauga County Commissioners meeting. Parkman Township resident, John Augustine, questioned why the Commissioners had not funded any projects for farmland preservation in Geauga County. Neither of the two Commissioners present nor the County Administrator could recall any such project coming before them. County Administrator David Lair noted that he has been in that position for twelve years. Commissioner Claypool suggested that funding farmland preservation and the necessary agricultural easements are the province of county park systems, such as the Geauga Park District. We recall our own research about a dozen years ago. . This article is in response to our need to revisit the topic and to draw some conclusions about the accomplishments of the Clean Ohio Fund since its inception in 2001.

The concept of farmland preservation goes back in northeast Ohio, to the mid 1980s to the Chagrin River Land Conservancy. By 1996 the CRLC had “preserved” about 500 acres of land. Even at that time the CRLC was recognized as one of the larger partnerships for the preservation of green space. According to Rich Cochran, the president of the organization, at its website, the initial effort provided “tax breaks” for wealthy people who did not need extra money, per se, but who were interested in saving land from development. During the same time period, those individuals who could afford to abandon the urban areas were buying larger parcels of land in outlying areas away from Cuyahoga County: Medina, Geauga, Lorain, and others in northeast Ohio. Within approximately the same time period the actual Clean Ohio Fund originated as a result of Amendment 1 (also known as State Issue 1) on the November 7, 2000, Ohio ballot. The victorious issue resulted in the amendment of the Ohio Constitution by the adoption of Section 2o of Article VIII. Local government and private for-profit and not-for-profit entities were to be eligible to participate.

The arguments for passage included the objectives of keeping drinking water, rivers and streams clean, of reducing the number of “polluted” industrial sites to stimulate economic revitalization while continuing to make polluters pay for the cost of cleanup, of funding the project with liquor profits instead of a progressive tax increase, and of generating more sources of investment income from both the federal government and the private sector. The issue passed narrowly. Out of about 3,827,000 votes cast, the issue passed 57% to 43%.

As a result, two separate funds, one $200,000,000 fund for conservation of natural areas, farmland, and open spaces and one $200,000,000 fund for the clean-up of parcels known to be contaminated with contaminated waste, or “brownfields,” were to be established. Within a single year the maximum funding by the Ohio General Assembly was to be $50,000,000 with all bond obligations maturing no later than twenty-five years after initial issuance.

Between 2000 and 2004 $150,000,000 in grants was to be awarded for projects that would protect rare or endangered animal and plant species; preserve “high quality” wetlands; preserve forests, stream channels and floodplains; secure agricultural and conservation easements; provide learning opportunities for school children to learn about natural resources; promote eco-tourism; provide bike trails to connect natural areas; to eliminate invasive animal and plant species.

In addition, between 2000-2004 $25,000,000 would be spent fo protect agricultural parcels through the purchase of “agricultural easements,” or “purchase of developmental rights (PDRs).” The theory was that farmers who chose to continue using their land for farming instead of selling it off for housing or industrial/commercial development were actually losing money. Thus, the Clean Ohio Fund was to be used to pay the participating farmers the difference between agricultural value and development value of their land. In turn, the farmers were to place deed restrictions on the land , thereby keeping the property in agriculture. Such a deed restriction or agricultural easement would “run with the land,” so that any future owners could utilize the land only by the terms established in the deed restriction.

Between 2000-2004 the Clean Ohio Fund was to invest at least $175,000,000 to evaluate and clean up contaminated areas to return them to productive use, especially for mixed-use to accommodate industrial, commercial, residential, park, and/or natural needs. Twenty percent of the allocation for brownfield revitalization was to be available as grants to be provided economically disadvantaged areas.

The amendment to the Ohio Constitution enabled the formation of the Clean Ohio Council to award both grants and low-interest loans from the Clean Ohio Fund. The director of the Department of Development was to be chairman of the fund; the director of Ohio EPA, two state senators, two state representatives, and seven members appointed by the governor were to be the voting members. The director of the Ohio Public Works Commission was to be a non-voting member. Assisted by a twelve-member Farmland Preservation Advisory Board to be chosen from local government, conservation agencies, farmland preservation groups, developers, and four farmers, the director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture was to be responsible for the award of grants. The director of the Department of Natural Resources, advised by a nine-member Clean Ohio Trail Advisory Board, was to decide which projects deserved to receive grants from the Clean Ohio Fund.

Reminding us of Municipal Planning Organizations (MPOs) like the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency that emerged about the same time, the Clean Ohio Fund was to provide economic preferences to projects consistent with a statewide trail plan, to complete regional trail systems, to link population centers with outdoor recreation areas, to involve purchase of rail lines (“rails to trails”), to preserve so-called natural corridors, and to provide easy commuter access in urban areas.

By year 10 of the program (2013), the Ohio Department of Transportation had been added to the bureaucracy of boards in the selection process of grantees. The Ohio Department of Transportation Prequalified Appraiser was to provide a certified appraisal for each grant application. Further, a Department of Transportation Prequalified Appraisal Reviewer was to approve all projects that leverage the difference between appraised value and purchase contract for a twelve-month period. Additionally, a letter to then Speaker of the House of Representatives, William G Batchelder, and signed by 175 leaders of agriculture, local government, sports and recreation, municipal and county park systems, and land trusts urged the General Assembly ro appropriate $52 million for the Clean Ohio Fund for FY 2014-2015. Grants continue to be awarded in 2016 as a result of funding authorized by Ohio's General Assembly.

Evaluation of the Clean Ohio Fund's success in preserving acreage on a county-wide basis seems to raise some question about the effectiveness of the program based on the total investment. In Geauga County, it appears that only three farms have received grants for PDF's: The Weedon Dairy Farm of 284 acres in Parkman, the O'Reilly Farm of 125 acres in Parkman, and a third farm, the Binnig farm in Thompson. The Weedon and O'Reilly projects, as nearly contiguous pieces of property, were added to the Farmland Preservation Program about 2003 with the financial sponsorship and backing of the Geauga County Commissioners, presumably Bill Young, Mary Samide, and former judge Craig Albert.

Although the latest documentation indicates that Seneca(23), Clark(22), Preble(19), Ashland (15), Knox(15), Portage(13), and Montgomery(11) Counties have the largest number of farms preserved under Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Programs (LAEPP), a large number of counties appear not to be involved: Cuyahoga, Harrison, Guernsey, Belmont, Noble, Morrow, Morgan, Washington, Hocking, Vinton, Meigs, Pike, Jackson, Gallia, Lawrence, Paulding Putnam, Hancock, Wyandot, Van Wert, Erie, and Ottawa. These are the counties that are at the northern, western, eastern, and southern extremities of the state. Are there any reasons why?

According to the Department of Agriculture website, in 2015 the LAEPP were responsible for the purchase of agricultural easements on fifty-four family farms, 7512 acres, in twenty-six counties. Each of these farms was at least 40 acres and had a Certified Local Sponsor to assist the farmer(s). By 2015 the total number of permanent easements preserved since the inception of the program in 2002 was stated as 55,947 at the Ohio Department of Agriculture website. The Clean Ohio Fund still has more than $6,000,000 available for agricultural projects approved in fifty-seven counties.

As of this time, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture website, 354 family farms on 59,000 acres in fifty-four counties have been preserved. The majority of the local sponsors for farmland preservations in 2016, according to the Office of Farmland Preservation within the Ohio Department of Agriculture, have been soil and water conservation districts. The Black Swamp Conservancy has been awarded $521,943 for parcels in Fulton, Hancock, Lucas, Sandusky, Seneca and Wood Counties. The Cardinal Land Conservancy, with parcels in Adams, Brown, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton, and Highland Counties, was awarded $353,943. The Westerm Reserve Land Conservancy received/will receive in 2016 $319,774 for parcels in twenty counties: Ashland, Ashtabula, Carroll, Columbiana, Erie, Geauga, Holmes, Huron, Jefferson, Lake, Lorain, Mahoning, Medina, Portage, Richland, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Tuscarawas, and Vaughn. Other soil and water conservation districts acting as local sponsors for owners of farmland are Belmont SWCD, Champaign SWCD, Miami SWCD, Fayette County SWCD, Lake County SWCD, Licking County SWCD, Licking County SWCD, Licking County SWCD, Logan County Land Trust,Marion County SWCD, Montgomery County SWCD, Owl Creek Conservancy, Tecumseh Land Trust, Three Valley Conservation Trust, Warren County SWCD, and West Central Ohio Land Conservancy.

When we explored the prospect of preserving our own acreage, we became disillusioned by the prospect that there were “strings attached.” Of course, we did not expect free money as a result of participating in the Clean Ohio Fund, but what turned us off was that whoever might buy our farm or inherit it, he/she would have to operate the property under conditions imposed by the land conservancy or agency that owned the agricultural easement. In other words, the new owner did not really “own” the property free and clear of any title impediments.

We are reminded of the announcement back in 2010 that a seventy-plus acre piece of land in Newbury had been acquired by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. The owner of the parcel lived in New Jersey, but her two cousins, Auburn Township resident Patrick Cavanagh and his brother Michael Cavanagh, were going to continue their farming of row crops and harvesting maple syrup, respectively. During the spring of 2015 the property in question was listed for sale by virtue of signs posted on the property and on the Western Reserve Land Conservancy website. The property use was restricted to farming and to the installation of one single-family residence for $499,000. During the summer of 2015 Cavanagh in print media complained that it was difficult to sell farm property because of the increase in Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) taxes imposed at the state level, apparently never considering that the price being asked for a land parcel with deed restrictions was too much for the market to bear. The parcel is still for sale a year later at $499,000. Someone who can afford half a million dollars for a land purchase probably desires the total freedom “to have and to hold” his property, not be required to ask another entity permission to use it.

We are also reminded of Auburn Township's purchase of property once owned by the Cathan Family but sold to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy by the family when its offer to sell directly to the township was turned down. Now if Auburn Township wishes to improve the land, known as Auburn Community Park, trustees must first ask the Western Reserve Land Conservancy even though WRLC no longer owns the land itself, but just an easement that “runs with the land” for perpetuity. Similarly, many residents of Chester Township have been outraged to learn that park property “bought” by the township requires permission from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy before any improvement or active use by the public can occur. As a result, one Chester trustee has active litigation questioning the legitimacy of the contract arranged by a past board of Chester trustees with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy while the land itself rests in apparent limbo for township residents.

Our own experience helped us learn that the farm that inspires us every single day might not so enthrall the holder of an agricultural easement on the property itself. The reality is that our parcel is less than forty acres, for starters. Nevertheless, what we learned is that any land conservancy, rather than holding a parcel that has been deeded to it by loving owners, can decide to use it to buy or trade for other parcels that the organization thinks can be more beneficial to it. So much for the idea of an entity loving our land as much as we do. Consequently, we decided long ago that when we leave this earth, our heirs and assigns deserve the right to own all of our farm, with its mineral rights and its aesthetic and development value, to have and to hold, and to decide what shall become of it, whether it be the continued use of the land for crops and/or livestock or the sale for whatever purpose is legal.

While we have been privileged to follow up on the topic of the Clean Ohio Fund and its inherent use of deed restrictions to provide agricultural easements, we are still convinced that ownership should mean the ability to dispose of property according to one's needs and desires. We are still curious that according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture website landholders in thirty some counties have rejected the prospect of accepting money in exchange for limited land ownership. In sum, while the Clean Ohio Fund may have permitted some individuals the opportunity to receive funds from the State of Ohio to reinvest in their farms, we think that such availability of funding should not have come as a result of changing the Ohio Constitution or from funding authorized by the General Assembly on the backs of all Ohio residents. Does this kind of investment imply an interference by state government into the market economy, thereby influencing a business outcome? We believe so.

Consequently, we are blessed to be able to own our property without any liens or obligations to any state-financed entity. In literature there have been multiple attempts to explore the consequences of driving a bargain in order to retain ownership of property; we are most often reminded of the short story, “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” written in the mid twentieth century by American writer, Steven Vincent Benet. Jabez Stone, the New Hampshire farmer, signed a contract in blood with Scratch, the Devil, in exchange for “saving” the farm. Jabez, at the moment that the Devil was coming to collect on the deal, bemoaned, “All I got on the farm was a crop of stones. You could work all day and all night but that was all you got.” “Free” money from the Devil or from the government is not free. There are always strings attached, and we do not expect the reincarnation of anyone, not even Daniel Webster, to save us from emotional decisions that “run with the land” for perpetuity.

Broken website to go with broken zoning
published February 2, 2016

In the meeting of February 1st 2016 the Auburn Township trustees decided to non-renew the Constant Contact email system. John Eberly confidently boasted that the “official” township website provides all the information that is needed for residents and taxpayers to be informed about Auburn Township affairs. Trustee Eberly stated that the “official” website “that is doing exactly” what the professional system costing $126 annually was supposed to do. At that point Trustee Troyan put his substantial hand over his substantial mouth and prevented any further coherent communication to the residents of Auburn Township.

It is unfortunate that Trustees Eberly and his tired sidekicks, Trustee Cavanagh and Trustee Troyan, don't check their “official” website often enough to know just how bad the website has become in the last year. Let's start with the Calendar. There are no meeting dates for the trustees, the Auburn Board Zoning Appeals, or the Auburn Zoning Commission. Go a step further. The minutes from all public meetings, including the Auburn Zoning Commission and the Auburn Board of Zoning Appeals, are missing. Click on the Archive and the latest minutes online date back to September 8, 2014. Board of Zoning Appeals and Zoning Commission are totally missing. The website problems don't end here. Continue to check the drop down menus and you will be amazed by all the information that is missing.
To end on a positive note I would like to point out when you check the contact information the map no longer directs us to Shady Side Cemetery.

There is NOTHING that beats a group of township trustees who spout with great authority about something that they know nothing about even after awarding 2% raises to all the office staff and secretaries. This is a SAD, SAD COMMENTARY about your wasted Auburn Township tax dollars administered by elected and appointed officials who apparently don't give a damn about doing a good job. Like the broken “official” website, they are “doing exactly. . . “ [insert Troyan's big hand and stick in whatever verbage you see fit].

Published February 1, 2016

From the events of the January 30, 2016, public meeting of the Geauga County Central Committee, it is fair to conclude that GOP Chair, Nancy McArthur, was hot to admit eight members of the public into the Geauga County Central Committee prior to any election results. Noting that she wanted “to invite” those individuals into the warm brotherhood of Republican inner sanctum policies, she apparently was not ready to face the storm of protest and pushback that resulted in the ultimate (and, we believe, well-deserved) failure of her motion. Although the entire vote could have taken just a minute, the fiasco turned into ten minutes of agonizing, embarrassing hell as McArthur revealed a lack of knowledge about proper procedure. In the end her effort to pack the Central Committee with eight individuals of her favor ended in total defeat.

It all began when McArthur asked for approval of eight candidates who were unopposed in their prospective races in the March 15 Republican Primary Contest to be automatically added to the Central Committee. After the motion was made to vote for the approval of these individuals, there
was first an attempt to have a voice vote, then a roll call. The roll call resulted in an overall decision to reject the unopposed candidates for induction into the Central Committee. At this point former (but not currently a Central Committee) member, Mark Porter, suggested that new by-laws allowed “suspension of the rules” to permit discussion of the issue.  Mr. Porter was a member of the committee that had contributed to the language of the by-laws earlier in 2015. Announced as the Parliamentarian for the session, Porter's permitted remarks may have caused confusion inasmuch as Ms McArthur's opening remarks granted the right to comment  only to current Central Committee members.

 By this time there was plenty of confusion. McArthur repeatedly interrupted Central member Walter "Skip" Claypool after having announced at the outset that only one person at a time would be permitted to speak. At another point, a speaker identified only as Shawn noted that McArthur was violating the very by-laws that had required two meetings (August 15 and November 15) to enact. McArthur seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time protesting that her actions did not construe violation of the by-laws. There was no further comment or clarification from Mr. Porter, but McArthur appeared to be downright argumentative and confrontational toward legitimately-elected Central Committee members.

Watch the video. At ten minutes in length, it is longer than we prefer, but the confusion and animosity that are demonstrated serve to reveal the critical lack of cooperation, problem-resolution, and leadership within the ranks of the Geauga County Republican Central Committee.

Published January 29, 2016

Russell resident Linda J. O'Brien, best known in Geauga County for her work as a consultant to the Geauga Park District, her founding of Liberty Camp for children's participation, and her recent appointment to South Russell's park district, spoke from her heart on behalf of incumbent Geauga Commissioner, Ralph Spidalieri, on the evening of January 28, 2016.

In the course of that discussion, Ms. O'Brien noted nefarious activity by Geauga County Republican Chairman Nancy McArthur. Further, she reported the inability of the Geauga County Board of Elections to eliminate an opponent for the Republican County Central Committee precinct seat that was hand-picked by McArthur. McArthur circulated the petition herself and returned it to the Board of Elections although research has determined that McArthur designate is apparently not a registered Republican.

Watch the video and listen carefully. Nancy McArthur, recently appointed the Chardon City Mayor as well as the President of Chardon Council, as well as the Geauga County Republican Chairman, like our 14th District US Representative, Dave Joyce, is drunk. Joyce is widely reported to be “falling down drunk” from an alcohol-dependence. McArthur is obsessively drunk over power issues and hell-bent to achieve her “vision” for Geauga County as Commissioner.

It is time for a showdown to rid Geauga County of false leadership. Only You, the voters of Geauga County, can determine the outcome of the March 15, 2016, Commissioner Race. Choose wisely. Please vote for Ralph Spidalieri to continue his leadership role as Geauga County Commissioner.

Published January 13, 2016

We are presenting the enclosed video as a public service to Geauga County voters as they seek to choose the best qualified candidates in the March 2016 election.

Tom and I have been blessed with the will to survive, perhaps because we have dealt with adversity. We believe that we are indeed role models. We have learned much about our strengths and resilience. Nevertheless, we have little patience with individuals who use the tragedies of others as an excuse to ridicule and demean the morality and good character of others.

The video which follows here is an example of that base, mean-spirited arrogance which we have witnessed in elected and appointed civil servants. Please watch and share this commentary and video with everyone you know in Geauga County. The only way to end vicious practices that have long flourished in Geauga County is to become knowledgeable and to express outrage at their continuance.

Answering the lies.

From Kerri Lynch Quay. In 1993, my mother passed away after an 18 month battle with Leukemia. Now Dave Joyce is smearing my Dad, Matt Lynch, with lies about this difficult time. His lies tell you more about Dave Joyce than they do about my Dad. When the Democrats tried to smear my Dad, Bob Bennett, former Chairman of the Republican Party, said they should "be ashamed...someone who would say such things about such things about a man who was caring for his terminally ill wife makes me sick to my stomach." Congressman Joyce, you owe my family an apology.

Posted by Matt Lynch for Ohio on Friday, January 8, 2016

We have a bit of a personal stake in this video because Tom and I were personally devastated by my own diagnosis of aggressive He+2 breast cancer in June 2005. It was the cancer that took the life of Elizabeth Edwards, the wife of John Edwards, US Presidential candidate in 2004 against George W. Bush. Elizabeth Edwards was diagnosed with a 5-centimeter He+2 cancerous tumor in late 2004 immediately after the conclusion of the campaign. While I am not of the same political persuasion as the Edwards of that era, I soon learned that Elizabeth Edwards was a brilliant attorney who had forged her own worldly success. She was logical, reasonable, and rational, and a constant source of hope and optimism as I fought my own battle with an aggressive cancer with a reputation for killing women because it often returned years after having been excised and treated with chemotherapy.

In the summer of 2005, when I dealt with my own cancer, I struggled to learn all I could about my prognosis and the causes and possible cures. I struggled every day to clean the stalls of our 15 horses in my sterile white plastic jumpsuit that at first caused our horses to spook because of the rustling noises it made as it moved. I struggled to finish tasks with the constant need to drink twelve glasses of water to flush out the poison of chemo drugs and the constant need to urinate the wastes. My hair fell out completely within two weeks of the very first chemotherapy.

By the sixth of eight rounds of chemotherapy, I was exhausted. I no longer recognized my own face in the mirror. The bright blue eyes that had always been the mirror of my soul were pale and lifeless. The face in which these two lifeless organs rested was gray and slack. Though I still cleaned all my stalls, my rides on my favorite pony were limited to 15 minutes a day, and I slept on the couch in a fetal position for about 15 hours daily with two months of chemotherapy left.

The completion of chemotherapy was not the end of my treatment. Though I initially rejected my year-long treatment with herceptin, I came to learn that it, as the latest technology, had the ability to target my immune system. On the other hand, my oncologist told me, if I experienced a recurrence of the breast cancer within a year after completion of the herceptin, I could expect to be treated with herceptin for the rest of my life, which would be short.

When treatment finally ended in 2007, I was physically weak. I worried about every ache and pain as a sign of a cancer recurrence. My last thought at night and my first thought in the morning was a nagging concern that, although each day I survived was a miracle, I might not be here to reach my lifelong goals, prominent among which was the installation of a wind turbine for our horse farm. That goal now seemed illusive and improbable.

With that knowledge, I was proud to use some of the Arabian horses we had bred and raised to raise money for the Cleveland branch of the American Cancer Society. I was delighted that my favorite mount, my soulmate Tsammie, helped raise more than $750,000 for the cause. Next to Tom, Tsammie is my lifeline to survivorship.

In 2010 several catastrophic events occurred. Many of you know that the farm wind turbine that had been a personal goal since 2002 became the cause of Auburn Township's revocation of our farm exemption after having approved it three months earlier. Elizabeth Edwards passed away from the recurrence of breast cancer in her femur. We lost two beloved horses that year. My mother passed away, leaving huge financial and estate concerns. And we were faced with the challenge of fighting Auburn Township and its prosecutor, Mary Brigid Matheney in court, dealing with township attempts to discredit our character while violating the tenets of ORC 519.21. Farms in townships, including Auburn, are exempt from any zoning regulations. We still recall Matheney's statement that we would “not be a role model” for wanting a wind turbine and for curtly telling us that she took her orders from township trustees Eberly, Troyan, and Cavanagh, a wannabe dairy farmer. In the meantime, we were still dealing with the costs of cancer treatment, which exceeded $750,000. These were huge financial, emotional, and physical challenges that required all the focus we could muster.

Thank you for your patience, your enthusiasm, and your will to survive and make a difference for your community.

Diane Jones
A Wind in the Woods/Windt im Wald Farm

Published January 12, 2016

Although the first serious snowfall of 2016 turned Geauga County roads into a real adventure, thereby cutting down on attendance at the 10 AM premier meeting of the Geauga Park District, Director John Oros, Financial Director Michelle Pennell, Attorney David Ondrey, employee Matt McCue, Commissioners Gertz, Dottore, and Barker, and two quietly-seated park rangers were ready for any and all outcomes. The result was a meeting that finished its public session and went into executive session in a fast-moving hour. New commissioner, Jackie Dottore, greeted attendees, expressing outgoing warmth and self-confidence; she brings to the park board credible experience as a long-term board member of the West Geauga School District. A resident of Russell Township, Mrs. Dottore, accepted the nomination of Chairman by fellow commissioner, Lennie Barker. Veteran member of the board, Bill Gertz, was voted to be Vice-Chairman. A more self-assured Executive Director, John Oros, appeared to take immediate control of the direction of the meeting from the get-go, with Mrs. Dottore asking information-based questions without being assertive or domineering. Mr. Barker added his observations and asked a few questions. Mr. Gertz made assertions that brought applause and appeared to make him the darling of the small group of attendees known as Protect Geauga Parks; Mr. Gertz labeled them “The Loyal Opposition” with a quizzical smile.

The first few minutes went smoothly. Minutes from the December 8, 2015, GPD meeting were approved with corrections to recognize that a member of the Protect Geauga Parks (PGP) had filed a complaint regarding the park system with the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office, not PGP as a group. No further comments or explanation accompanied that fact, but Shelly Chernin, the complainant, sat in quiet attendance with a little smile playing on her lips. Volunteer Sue Berger accepted commendation and a jug of maple syrup on behalf of her husband Bill and herself for being honored as the GPD volunteers for December.

Video of full meeting
As the meeting went to the Public Comment portion of the meeting, three familiar participants volunteered their comments. The first two were concise, but the third contributor rambled on and on, finally admitting that he had more comments that he would leave for a later time. Since many of these comments were familiar and repetitive of past performance, some in attendance appeared relieved to get on with the business portion of the meeting, Participants were Kathryn Hanratty, obliged to inform that she was the current president of Protect Geauga Parks; Ed Buckles, who omitted his residence of Troy Township. Mr. Buckles stated, “We are happy that some members have board experience. . . We look forward to working with you.” He added that he was looking forward to the new GPD board making contact with two or three representatives of PGP to establish an apparently friendly relationship with the new board. Mrs. Dottore was seen to be taking extensive notes during Buckles' statements. The final participant, John Augustine, noted, “I hope you are here for a while [to finish] your term. . .the original purpose of the park system was not for activities. . .but for interest in natural areas.” Warming up to his own apparent self-importance, he urged the board members to relate their experience with such organizations as the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Nature Conservancy, but no board members complied with the request. In addition, Augustine flourished a copy of a GPD newsletter that he purported had coincidentally arrived at his house on Election Day 2014 with a number of pictures of a former GPD Commissioner running for County Commissioner. Having reached the end of tolerance for Augustine's heavy-handed commentary about his opinions of past GPD actions, Director John Oros looked in Augustine's direction as if to tell him his time was up. Augustine had just about finished his comment about “people appointed because of another agenda” when he chose to ask for more time. Mrs. Dottore, asking if there were more attendees wishing to comment and finding none, afforded Augustine a few more minutes so that Augustine could propound on his own expertise as a telescope-expert who had been chosen to work on a telescope in Michigan. Mercifully, he at last tabled his other comments and headed back to his seat next to his video camera.

At approximately 10:50 AM, after Michelle Pennell's report on the amended permanent budget (Resolution No. 2-16), and the announcement that the nationally traveling exhibit to honor Vietnam Veterans known as “The Wall That Heals” would be coming to Geauga Parks, Director Oros quietly dropped a bombshell to several PGP people. He announced that snowmobiles would be permitted at Observatory Park as a first year trial offering. He would be issuing a special use permit, he said, an option that bypassed a vote by the board of park commissioners. The trial offering would be available to a group snowmobilers who had appeared at a previous GPD meeting on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 5 PM only. His statement was punctuated with questions. Mrs. Dottore asked, “At the end of the season, will determinations be made?” Mr. Barker asked, “Will there be an age limit?”

Immediately, the hand of PGP members Kathy Hanratty and John Augustine shot up. Ed Buckles yelled out, without waiting to be recognized, “The two new members cannot vote on this issue. . .This issue cannot be voted on for thirty more days.” He apparently did not understand that the recommendation of the special use permit eliminated any further need for board members to consider a vote then or at any other time. Buckles, obviously exasperated, continued to speak loudly at the same time as Director Oros. Director Oros stated, “Mr. Buckles, you do not have the floor.”

At that point Commissioner Gertz noted, “Let me go on record as opposed to this action. . .I feel sorry for the rangers. . .I am not in favor of this resolution.” Applause from PGP. Mrs. Dottore asked Oros, “What have you learned from other counties [with regard to snowmobiling permits]?

Oros replied, “We have looked at Ashtabula at Greenway Trail since Day 1. . . They have expanded the program. . .I think we should try.” In response to further questions from Commissioner Barker, Oros responded that the snowmobile special use trial would permit “opportunities for families.”

Kathryn Hanratty noted, “How does that [signage and citations] bring back the damaged trees [as a result of snowmobile damage]?”

Mrs. Dottore, apparently disregarding Hanratty demand for an answer, asked,” What is the importance of the trial and error? Will there be a through report on outcomes and damage?” Oros indicated that there would be a thorough analysis.

Another member of PGP, without being recognized, directed his comment to Commissioner Gertz, “You could make the motion to end this conversation and topic.” Gertz thought for just a moment and responded, :It;s not appropriate at this time.”

Suddenly there was competition for attention from John Augustine and Sandy Buckles about the need for an experienced biologist to report back to the park commissioners about “damages” to flora and fauna. Mrs. Dottore, quietly in charge, responded that there is “need for a trial.” Ed Buckles, again without being recognized, issued shouts and demands.

Director Oros stated, “That's enough. We are moving on.” And the GPD meeting did indeed move on, setting the next GPD meeting as February 9 at 10 AM.

Attendee Hanratty added, “At the risk of being ejected, John, you have overstepped your authority.”
Mrs. Dottore sidestepped the comment: “Mr. Oros, do you have authority to go into executive session?” At 11 AM Oros announced executive session and the end of the public session. All attendees left the meeting.

Principles for upcoming meetings of the Geauga Park District appear to have been firmly put into place.

Published January 11, 2016

Readers may recall our reference to the September 2015 Board of Zoning Appeals hearing in which Lew Tomsic, senior member appointed by the Auburn Township Trustees, announced that Auburn Township zoning is broken. Further, members of that body rejected both requests for variances. The first involved the wish of a potential buyer of property in Auburn Corners to establish an excavating-landscape venture. The second request was from a rancher/breeder of pygmy goats on Jacobs Lane, a private road of only four residences. Goat-husbandry is agriculture recognized in Ohio Revised Code 519.21 and not subject to township zoning authority. In both cases Tomsic was heard to say that the appeal of BZA judgments is as easy as the rejected variance-seeker filing Pro Se litigation in Geauga County Common Pleas Court to gain a possibly favorable outcome from the Auburn Township Trustees.

Both parties filed with attorneys in a timely manner in Administrative Appeals 15A000844 and 15A000865, both in the courtroom of the Honorable Forrest W. Burt. In both cases, Assistant Prosecutor Mary Brigid “Bridey” Matheney, a candidate in the March 15 Republican primary race for the seat of retiring Common Pleas Court Judge, the Honorable David Fuhry, filed within a couple of days of each administrative appeal. Matheney's brief requested that both cases be dismissed because “Appellant failed to name the proper party as Appellee.” Simply stated, both appellants filed their actions against the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals instead of the Auburn Township Trustees. Oh my, the horror of it all!

We are pleased to report that, in spite of Matheney's curt re quest for dismissal in light of BZA member Tomsic's insistence on the enlightenment of the Administrative Appeals process, on December 29 and December 30, 2015, respectively, Judge Burt overruled both Matheney's requests and noted that the Appellants in both 15A000844 and 15A000865 “are given leave to amend” their legal actions to substitute the name of “the Board of Township Trustees of Auburn Township and/or Frank Kitko, the Zoning Inspector for Auburn Township as Appelle(s)[sic] within fourteen days (14) days from entry of this judgment.”

We congratulate the Honorable Forrest Burt for his attention to the rights of the Auburn Township litigants adversely impacted by Auburn Township's broken zoning, particularly as it deals with Ohio Revised Code 519.21 in the form of animal husbandry. Judge Burt has wisely curbed the zeal of an apparently inexperienced or divisive self-seeking assistant prosecutor long in search of political advancement. It has been reported that her long-term association with incumbent U.S. Representative David Joyce precedes Matheney's 2007 hiring by Joyce to the Prosecutor's Office. Reports within Geauga County indicate that the association goes back to Matheney's teen-aged years in Russell Township and her “neighborly relationship” with the Congressman, who was appointed by the Geauga and Lake Republican Central Committees when Steve LaTourette announced his retirement a few years ago.

We celebrate the advancement of justice in the Geauga County Judicial system and to qualified and unbiased judicial expertise within.