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News Stories and Events for 2017

News stories from years 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013

Published Sunday, January 14, 2018

Unlike many other municipalities where voters directly elect their mayor, in Chardon, Ohio, the mayor is chosen from as a result of a vote taken among the city’s seven councilmen. Having announced in December 2017 his intentions of being chosen Chardon mayor over two-year incumbent, Nancy McArthur, Councilman Jeffrey Smock won that position by a vote of 4-3 during Chardon’s city council meeting on Thursday, January 11.

Both McArthur and Smock presented prepared statements in support of their respective candidacies. Smock, a longtime city finance manager employee( finance man. McArthur, who spoke first, referred to the vote as a “coup” to overthrow her. She intimated that her position as Chairman of the Republican Central Committee was a rationale used to label her as non-supportive of Democratic councilmen. She denied that charge. Nevertheless, she chose to criticize two individuals she identified by name for accepting “partisan moneys.” She also identified fellow councilmen David Lelko and Andrew Blackley as more motivated to promote their own interests than those of Chardon City Council and of the Chardon Mayor’s office. She noted that an elected title “does not make you a leader.” In contrast, she said, she would “continue to do the good work that I have always done for our great city.”

Smock in his prepared speech noted his intention not to “tarnish her [McArthur’s] reputation or past accomplishments,” but to speak up in his own defense. He cited McArthur’s recent “derogatory claims regarding my performance and that of fellow Councilman Dave Lelko. He noted that evaluation techniques of the current city manager, which McArthur had characterized as “a witch hunt,” had been approved by all members of City
Council, including McArthur. He also noted that the “so-called witch hunt resulted in the manager getting a 2.5% raise. . . Mrs. McArthur thinks there is a division on council if everyone does not vote the way she wants you to.

Ms. McArthur continued to speak after both sets of prepared remarks had concluded. When Smock said, “I will put my experience up against yours any day of the week,” McArthur responded, “I think you and Dave [Lelko] think you have superior experience to the rest of us. . .I don’t think it’s true.”

When the oral vote was completed in an election of not more than two minutes, Smock had won 4-3 to become council president/city mayor. In the election for vice-president, Lelko also won 4-3.

Watch the brief video recording of Nancy McArthur’s response to the election.

Published on Sunday, January 14, 2018

Present for the 9 AM January 11 meeting were personnel from the Department of Aging, the Prosecutor’s Office, several officials excluding Nancy McArthur from the City of Chardon, the Department of Health, the Planning Commission, the Maintenance Department, and Archives. In addition to the three Commissioner, County Administrator David Lair, Commissioners’ Clerk Christine Blair, Probate/Juvenile Court Liaison Kimberly Laurie, and Acting County Administrator Linda Burhenne, as well as Bowen employees Ken Emmeling and Robin Wolf were present.

Commissioner Spidalieri opened up the meeting to advise that issues involving security in the various county buildings would not be discussed in public as a result of opinions expressed by Prosecutor Flaiz. Executive session would be called, he said, if it became necessary to discuss those issues.

Mr. Emmeling summarized Phase 1 of Bowen’s investigation. He noted a needs assessment, a building assessment, and meetings with county personnel to obtain their opinions about department space requirements. If, as a result of today’s discussion, the county wished to go further, Phase 2 would be initiated.

A common theme was the need for more space from 180,000 square feet to 209,000 square feet. Most of the buildings scored D’s and F’s with the Department of Aging getting the highest score at C-. Scoring of individual buildings considered exterior facade condition, interior condition, furniture, security, accessibility, functionality, and ease and availability of parking. Although departments are utilizing their space well, their organization is poor. In addition, thin walls contribute to a lack of privacy when dealing with issues and individuals; in order to complete county business it is often necessary to walk or travel from building to building, even in inclement weather. Further, there is much duplication in equipment throughout the county offices. Many employees report a sense of isolation. The problem departments were the courthouse, the court annex/opera house, the prosecutor’s office, The planning department is one of the few areas with too much space in one building. The maintenance department has many buildings in many different locations of Chardon City.

One of the most significant conclusions was that county buildings need a lot of help, particularly in regard to usage of shared space, like vestibules, meeting rooms, restrooms, and storage spaces. It is important to follow a step-by-step procedure. Although with renovation the buildings could last a few more years, it is necessary to understand the best solution to provide the longest continuous trouble-free operation of buildings.

Phase 2, should the County Commissioners decide to engage Bowen to complete it, will involve a written statement of intention.

Published Saturday, January 13, 2018

President Charlie Stevens called the meeting to order at 7:30 AM, reading a note from Commissioner Spidalieri. Spidalieri had written that he would be late for the meeting, but the annual election of officers was to be postponed until his arrival. Mr. Spidalieri arrived at 7:50 AM, with annual election of officers commencing thereafter, about 8:25 AM. Mr. Stevens was reelected as Chairman, with Caterina Cocca-Fulton elected Vice-Chairman and Gary Neola elected as Secretary.

Director Dietrich provided information about lot splits in Geauga County in 2017. Based on the trends in lot splits, he expects many more lot splits in 2018. He announced that there were 34 new homes completed in 2017 in Bainbridge, 19 in Munson, 15 in Parkman, and 10 in Auburn. Mr. Dietrich explained that the numbers are rebounding. He expects 200 such splits in 2018. 2008 was the year with the smallest number of lot splits. Prior to that time frame there were typically 300 lot splits annually in Geauga County.

The first order of business was the submitted Munson zoning amendment, which stipulated that permitted signs be no larger than 2.25 square feet. Temporary signs, including those of a political nature, need to be removed by the third day aft er the event. Any sign larger than 2.25 square feet would require a zoning permit. No real estate sign larger than six square feet is allowed without a zoning permit. Any temporary signs may be posted for a maximum of fourteen days. Electronic signs must have a visible message of at least seven seconds.

Commissioner Claypool asked why these constraints were necessary for fences. Mr. Dietrich noted that building codes do not address nor apply to fences.

Tom Jones noted bothersome text and cited text that appeared to dictate a fence height of at least four feet but 54 inches where a gate that high exists. Mr. Spidalieri disagreed with the interpretation. Mr. Claypool observed the presence of duplication of other rules. Caterina Cocca-Fulton expressed concern that stipulated numbers are inconsistent and being changed arbitrarily. She questioned the legality of Munson being able to restrict code more than necessary, citing Supreme Court cases over similar excessive restrictions. She opined that in the case of a private building, the owner takes responsibility for any deficiency or liability.

Commissioner Claypool cited Commissioner Spidalieri’s construction of a swimming pool at a residential property in Munson purchased in 2016. Mr. Claypool inquired how Mr. Spidalieri had dealt with swimming pool requirements in Munson zoning code. Mr. Spidalieri responded that the contractor did all the work with regard to zoning. He specifically discussed an electric swimming pool cover costing $16,000. He noted the irony of not needing a fence around his fourteen foot deep lake but needing a fence around his nine foot deep pool. When member Gary Neola asked Spidalieri why he had decided to put on the pool cover, Spidalieri responded that the cover was for cleanliness, and that in the end he had not installed any fence around his permitted pool.

Chairman Stevens questioned the language in the Munson amendment regarding the permitted time of 14 or 30 days for temporary signs. He referenced the US Supreme Court case styled Reed vs. The Town of Gilbert [Arizona] (2015). Are signs up between 15 and 30 days even subject to zoning regulation? He cited the Supreme Court decision (ruled 9-0) that signs that require reading (content-based) are subject to First Amendment. Political, real estate, directional or identification, instructional, construction, price, and/or home occupation are NOT subject to township/municipality zoning.
Ms. Cocca-Fulton added that if one must read the sign or look at content of the sign to understand its message, any attempt by governmental officials to remove such sign is a violation of free speech rights. Further, she noted that the Supreme Court decision does not limit the time for signs exempt from zoning to 30 days.

Mr. Spidalieri questioned where one “draws the line” with regard to freedom from regulation on signs. “How do you get a trustee to deal with deteriorating appearance [of signage]?”

Mr. Claypool asked, “Are all the rules in zoning even enforceable?”

When Ms. Cocca-Fulton asked whether the Prosecutor’s Office had reviewed the Munson amendment, Director Dietrich responded that Assistant Prosecutor Susan Wieland had reviewed it without any comments.

Chairman Stevens noted further that putting a sign in the right-of-way is an example of redundancy that will result in the sign being removed.

Ms. Cocca-Fulton stated her wish that Assistant Prosecutor Wieland give an opinion in regard to private owners’ rights about fencing and signs. “She needs to opine about the free speech provision.”

Mr. Stevens noted that once a township zoning commission presents an amendment, the prosecutor will automatically review so it was clear that the Munson amendment had already gone through legal review. “Are there any recommendations that we can give to Munson to improve this amendment?” His conclusion was that there were two items for review by Munson Township: 1) In regard to swimming pools, is there any duplication of language that is already found in county building code?
2)What should Munson do regarding signage? At 8:25 Mr. Stevens asked for an approval with modifications to be given to the Munson amendment. That suggestion won unanimous approval by voice vote.

Commissioner Lennon noted the availability of one Planning Commission seat. Mr. Stevens elaborated that Cathy Cotman had decided not to renew her seat but to focus on her role on the Chester Township Zoning Commission, instead. Mr. Lennon asserted that there had been no responses in regard to the vacancy.

Mr. Stevens brought up the topic of time of meetings, noting that the 9 AM termination time of planning commission meetings has created problems for the Board of Commissioners. Mr. Neola suggested the need for meetings more often than once a month. Mr. Stevens agreed that the board has the right to set more meetings. For the time being at least, future meetings will be continued at 7:30 AM on the second Tuesday of the month, with termination at 9:30 AM, per unanimous approval.

Mr. Stevens updated information on formation of a groundwater committee. He indicated need for a committee with two zoning commission members and two township trustees. He noted that he already had one zoning commission member and one trustee to attend three meetings during the year.

At 8:45 AM the commission voted to go into executive session to discuss employment issues and returned to public session at approximately 9:25 with no action taken to adjourn the meeting of the Planning Commission.

Published Saturday, January 13, 2018

The highlights of this meeting deal with recent issues of a request to vacate a road in Parkman Township by that community’s trustees and issues relating to several new county hirees.

Back in December, after at least one public hearing and one public viewing of the road in question, Commissioners voted unanimously to approve vacation of a portion of Doty Road, During the meeting under discussion, Parkman trustee, Dennis Ikeler, and resident Mr. Gates appeared regarding Agenda Items 5, 6, and 7 concerning that issue. Item 5 was a motion from the Parkman Trustees to consider an amendment to the earlier-approved vacation. Item 6 regarded the Engineer’s response and report submitted in response to Item 5 with several language variations of the current state of affairs. Item 8 concerned a notarized letter received from Parkman property owner Kyle Wagamon. All three motions were approved by commissioners, who then gave Trustee Ikeler and resident Gates the opportunity to talk. Ultimately, an executive session among the three Commissioners and Assistant Prosecutor Laura Lachapelle resulted in a decision and multiple comments by the commissioners.

Noted Commissioner Spidalieri: “If we had to take a vote, we would vote to vacate the whole thing. I would ask to deny the request. I want the decision to be right.”

Commissioner Lennon added, “Now the landholders are negotiating. You need to go back to the drawing board.” The Parkman trustee agreed to submit another request to vacate.”

In other highlights, three hirees were the subject of motions. The Transit Department hired Sam Misseri as a part-time driver effective January 8 at the rate of $13.97 subject to a one-year probationary period. The County Home hired David Wicks as full-time attendant effective January 16 at the rate of $11.58 with a one-year probationary period. Finally, the Maintenance Department hired Aaron Boalt effective February 5 at the rate of $13.97 per hour with a one-year probationary period. A public records search indicates that he is the husband of Department of Aging Director, Jessica Boalt.

Published Saturday, January 13, 2018

In an organizational meeting that adjourned about 8:45 on an evening with temperatures well into the 50’s, the Auburn Township Trustees established membership on zoning commission and board of zoning appeal, along with salaries incorporating 2% raises for most township employees. Mileage reimbursement for township business increased from 53.5 to 54.5 cents per mile per the IRS.

All employees in township employment (perhaps with the exception of Matthew Blowers, who was not discussed) were reemployed. Frank Kitko, who has held office open to residents for a couple of hours on Friday afternoons for the last several years, was rehired by the Board of Trustees His monthly income increased from $1800.47 to $2000 per month.

Fire Chief/EMS Head, John Phillips will earn $38,000 per year on salary.

Michael Ludwing received two pay increases. For his position as cemetery sexton, his income increased from $331.19 to $337.82 per month. His rate of pay on the road department service team increased from $21.79 to $22.23 per hour straight time, with overtime dependent on road conditions during winter months.

BZA/Zoning Secretary Jane Hardy received two income increases. For her role as BZA Secretary, her rate of pay increased from $18.21 to $18.58 hourly, while her income as zoning secretary under Frank Kitko increased from $18.21 to $18.58 per hour.

Zoning Commission Secretary Dee Ballew’s reimbursement will increase from $18.47 to $18.58 per hour.

Nancy Dolezal, whose job title is Office Administrator, saw her rate of pay increase from $19.22 to $19.61.

Highway Superintendent Emerick Gordon, who was not present at the organizational meeting after reporting a long day that included a phone call at approximately 3:30 AM regarding the closing of Kenston Schools for Tuesday, January 9, per Trustee John Eberly, received an increase from $25.27 to $25.78 per hour.

Road department employee Mark Sturm’s rate of pay increased from 21.79 to $22.23 per hour.

Road department employee John Szoka’ s rate of pay increased from $21.79 to $22.23 per hour.

Road department employee with the least seniority,Mr. Fenstermaker, had his rate of pay increased from $18 per hour to a total of $19.98, which includes an additional $1 per hour raise.

Zoning Commission members, who regularly meet the second and fourth Thursdays of the month at the Administration Building at 7:30 PM, will continue to receive $45 per meeting. Members are Todd Asnavorian, Dee Ballew, Scott Kamineer, Albert Tien, Don Simpson, and Beth Liff.

Board of Zoning Commission members will continue to receive $45 per meeting. They meet the second Tuesday of each month at 7 P.M. at the Administration Building. Members are David Parker, Frances Gibbons, Doug Hogan, Scott Brockman, Brian Steward, Lew Tomsic, and Rob Pealer.

Published Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The opening 2018 meeting of the Geauga County Commissioners lasted about an hour with Ralph Spidalieri continuing in the role of President and Timothy Lennon assuming the position of Vice President. Twice during the meeting Commissioner Lennon joked over his new “seat.” About twenty minutes into the meeting, Mt. Lennon asked if he could stay in the same location relative to Commissioners Spidalieri and Claypool that he occupied during 2017 and then very near the end of the meeting he noted that he “may need a helmet,” an apparent reference to being in the middle of a verbal melee between the other two.

In the midst of a routine list of housekeeping motions, the Commissioners early in the meeting referenced the upcoming January 8 ADP Committee meeting. This was also listed on the agenda, and the meeting time of 11 AM was noted. In addition, a motion before the Commissioners to approve the action of the Joint Auditor/ADP Board to utilize Visa card use was tabled until the January 9 Commissioner meeting, when Commissioner Claypool would report back to the Board about the outcomes of the January 8 meeting. Commissioner Clerk, Christine Blair, noted that she had asked Deputy Auditor, Ron Leyde, for more information and was supplied with a list of applicants for the credit card use, including Frank Gliha and Ron Leyde. Ms. Blair also noted that under ORC, credit card use is allowed for the purchase of “technical” items. Ms. Blair clarified that the list of applicants might not necessarily correspond to those individuals who would be authorized to use the credit card for relevant purchases. In addition, no spending limits have been communicated at this point.

As a follow-up, the same motion appeared as number at the January 9, 2018 meeting. Commissioner Claypool shared that per the 11AM ADP meeting on Monday, January 8, the four individuals mentioned last week, he understood that the Visa card in question would/could be used to purchase URL’s to develop websites. The four names on the credit card application, including Auditor Frank Gliha and Deputy Auditor Ron Leyde, will be the only individuals with the authority to spend funds-- in this case, a maximum of $1500 each per month. The motion passed unanimously.

Published Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Northfield Center Trustee Paul Buescher regularly publishes a newsletter for constituents and friends. We extend our thanks to Trustee Buescher for this timely and relevant information. We have taken the liberty to quote him for his remarks about a former fiscal officer from the Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District.

“Former Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Fire District Fiscal officer, Rosemary Barrett, plead GUILTY today to the charge of theft in office. She made the plea before Judge Alison Breaux [in Summit County Common Pleas Court]. The 4th degree felony charge resulted from the misuse of a Fire District issued credit card.

“Barrett was sentenced to 36 months of ‘Community Control’ (Community Service) and will pay restitution amounting to $10,172.12. Details are included in court documents in case number CR-2017-08-3061.”

“Barrett was originally charged last August by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, when Northfield Center Township received a suspicious bill from Huntington Bank (formerly First Merit). The Sheriff’s Office was immediately contacted and conducted a subsequent investigation, which immediately implicated Mrs. Barrett. The Summit County Sheriff’s investigation, led by Detective Ann Manuel, is now complete and the case is closed.”

The criminal case judgment was released at 6:37 AM this morning to close the case known as The State of Ohio vs Rosemary D. Barrett. The press release noted that the court relied on “using the minimum sanctions that the Court determines accomplish those purposes without imposing an unnecessary burden on state or local government resources.”

The defendant shall “make full and complete restitution in the amount of $10,172.12, less any payments already made, to the victim in this matter, Northfield Center-Sagamore Hills Joint Fire District.” Among the conditions imposed on Barrett are testing for substance abuse and observed urinalysis testing.

The press release was copied to Summit County Assistance Prosecutor Jay Cole, Defendant’s Attorney and former Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Jose Feliciano; and the Summit County Adult Probation Department.

Finally, it is important to note that in this case the Office of the State Auditor, Dave Yost, apparently found no irregularities in any of the reports filed by Mrs. Barrett to that entity. Instead, the office of the Summit County Sheriff was responsible for uncovering the crime. Geauga County readers are reminded of the activities of Chester Township Clerk (now known as Fiscal Officer), who stole millions from that township in the early 2000s. Although Spellman served a prison term, he was paroled a few years ago without having paid back the Geauga County township.

Readers are reminded that fiscal officers, if found guilty of theft, are now required by virtue of recent Ohio Revised Code enactments, to pay back all missing funds.

Published Sunday, December 24, 2017

The last item on the agenda for the December 19, 2017, Geauga Commissioners’ Meeting was a presentation by Grace Gallucci, Director of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, and by Ted Kalo, Lorain County Commissioner. Although the Commissioners were able to dispense with 17 items in about half an hour, the Gallucci presentation was to last over an hour with no on-the-spot resolution.

The resolution, according to Ms. Gallucci, has been in discussion amid NOACA members since September 2015, She noted that since 2014, in response to Geauga County’s requests to withdraw from the organization, NOACA leadership has examined options that would permit Geauga County’s leaving the organization. The current issue for ratification emerged as a result of NOACA’s abandonment of weighted votes in 2009. In the process, NOACA leadership discovered that the membership from Cuyahoga County was incorrectly deprived of two votes within the organization. Since the current voting membership constitutes a total of 45 votes, granting Cuyahoga County two additional votes would bring the total number of votes to 47. Ted Kalo made reference to the NOACA bylaws as the frame of reference for the current need for ratification by December 31, 2017, by all members of NOACA. Thus far, the only entities who have not ratified are Geauga and Cuyahoga Counties.

Commissioner Claypool noted that there is a conflict in the NOACA bylaws. He emphasized that the bylaws dictate the number of seats available for each eligible entity, resulting in the illegality of the current motion. The only way to modify the legal representation, he asserted, is to change the bylaws. Furthermore, according to Mr. Kalo, only one non-approval of the motion is sufficient to disqualify the motion for each and every NOACA member.

Ms. Gallucci noted that upon discovery of the two-vote discrepancy, NOACA hired an outside attorney, Mr. Cramer, who expressed several possible resolutions:

1) Provide proportional interests.

2)Provide a modified vote which expressed the intent that no entity should lose a vote/seat.

3) Use a mathematical formula that would guarantee all members three votes.

4) Wait for the census information of 2020 to be applied to the mathematical formula cited in (3).

Ms. Gallucci acceded that if “population” is the basis for the number of votes to which an entity is entitled, Geauga County might have a claim. She noted that the final resolution of the conflict would depend on federal mediation.

When Commissioner Lennon asked if there were a possibility that Cuyahoga County might lose votes, Gallucci answered no. Lennon noted that that particular outcome “doesn’t change the price of rice for Geauga County.” Both he and Geauga adviser, Linda Burhenne, wound up asking what advantages the ratification by Geauga County would provide for Geauga County.

Ms. Gallucci referenced suggestions by US Representative Joyce to provide Geauga County with four voting members on the NOACA board. That suggestion, she elaborated, would result in a total of 63 votes on the NOACA board to treat all entities fairly. When she seemed to imply that Joyce’s solution would result in an unwieldy number of votes, Commissioner Claypool reminded her that originally each of the voting entities had six votes each in the 1970s. His compromise was that if the Geauga County Engineer were entitled to a vote (bringing Geauga County’s total to 4), then Geauga County would be willing to negotiate about the other conflicts.

Ms. Gallucci emphasized that in order to gain the extra vote, Geauga County would force Cuyahoga County to lose votes. In response to Commissioner Lennon’s and Ms. Burhenne’s question asking advantages to Geauga with ratification of the motion, Ms. Gallucci cited two advantages:

1) regional coherence with no possible consequences of litigation or mediation procedures

2) the guarantee to Geauga of three votes

“What if we don’t vote?” asked Lennon.

“The resolution fails,” responded Gallucci.

Ted Kalo, the NOACA representative from Lorain County, attempted to soften the tone. “There isn’t partisan politics in NOACA. . . . This is just a matter of making it fair and equitable. . . . There will be no change in outcomes [if the total number of votes in NOACA increases from 45 to 47]. There are no agendas. This is a matter of straightening out language. In 2008/2009 we had to throw out weighted votes. Everyone got four votes to my one.. . .We always catch the errors. Two years from now we will find language to change.”

Tim Lennon asked a second time, “What are the ramifications if we don’t ratify?”

Without an apparent response, Gallucci went back to an explanation of the issues.

Linda Burhenne asked, “What happens if we don’t ratify?”

Gallucci answered, “It fails.”

“Then what?” asked Lennon.

Kalo added, “It’s a matter of balancing the vote. It’s not going to change anything. . . .Cleveland can always shut down any project.”

Gallucci: “NOACA only receives funding for 20,000 people in Geauga County. There is no money for rural areas.”

Lennon: “What’s the benefit for Geauga County?”

Gallucci: “We did look for ways to extract Geauga County [from NOACA]. Another way was to remove the 73,000 rural population. We would do this for Lorain and Medina Counties as well. Another possibility is that NOACA has no intention of forcing anyone to join. You could join AMATS, [a municipal planning organization representing Summit and Portage Counties].”

Ted Kalo: “Has Geauga seen that it hasn’t received any funding?”

Claypool: “If you take a look at our funding over the last few years it has been non-existent. The only level of funding we are getting is next year. We see no funding for the next five years. We were getting one to two million dollars per year up to recently.”

Gallucci: “That is not accurate. I ran a 25-year analysis. On average, Geauga received $1.1 million per year. Geauga will receive $1.34 million.”

Claypool: “We’re not in control of our destiny. This is business. I have no animosity. My objective is to maximize the benefits to Geauga County. Our funding from NOACA has suffered. How do we improve returns to Geauga County?”

Gallucci: “It’s not computed on what you want. NOACA gives funding for its rural areas that it doesn’t have to give. Geauga cannot do better without NOACA, but NOACA can do better without Geauga.”

Lennon: “The forecast---there is not much meat on the bone in the next four to five years. . . Engineer expenses have doubled. We have had to pass permissive auto license taxes.”

Gallucci: “I think the benefit is clearly as a region competing against Columbus.”

Kalo: “Everyone gets their fair share. . . .We can’t be dictators like we are in our own businesses.”

The time was about 11:35. Everyone seemed to be talked out, and the conversation appeared to end on a diplomatic note. One of the outcomes of the ratification of the resolution is that written language within NOACA bylaws specifies that future negotiation of contested issues may not be guaranteed.

Published Wednesday, December 20, 2017

On August 22, 2017, Auburn Township Fiscal Officer, Fred May, showed up before the Geauga County Budget Commission to present the 2018 Auburn budget. At that time Mr. May requested $3,434,972. Because of some clerical errors/fallacies the Budget Commission noted it would approve only $3,051,142 a difference of $383,830. The actions of the Budget Commission imply that Auburn Township required about $384,000 less than it had requested. The computations and the historical information for the time period of 2015-2018, including the special fire levy, are included here.

On December 18, 2017, Mr. May asked for approval of four supplemental appropriations. One of the most interesting of those is Temporary Appropriation 2017-47, for the purpose of “a 2018 salary increase in the fire levy fund.” Although supplementary appropriations 44, 45, and 46 all provided a specific dollar amount, the noted temporary appropriation did not provide a dollar amount. When
this writer asked for clarification on the temporary appropriation, Mr. May explained that “the board was considering putting the chief on salary, which would be a raise.” When this writer asked for a
“ballpark’ dollar amount, Mr. May noted that he “couldn’t speak to that.”

Thus, there is a temporary appropriation of unknown dollar amount identified as 2017-48, one of four supplementary appropriations added year-end. At this same meeting, prospective equipment purchases of equipment for the road and bridge fund plus this unknown salary increase point to a cash-rich treasury in Auburn Township.

At a time when many Ohio townships find themselves cash-poor because of reduction of local-government funds, Auburn Township officials elected by a hair’s margin of victory appear confidently poised to spend large amounts of taxpayer monies.

Is this how the taxpayers want the township to dispose of voted monies? Those individuals who are moving out of the township during the first quarter of 2018 may be expressing their disapproval of current Auburn fiscal policies.

Published Saturday, December 16, 2017

So, what’s been causing all those monthly planning commission meetings to run over till 9:30 and 10 AM? In recent meetings there has been a sense of planning new directions and priorities. Nevertheless, it has become common practice for the members of the Planning Commission to be required to leave before all business on the agenda can be resolved. Consequently, the resolution of issues important to Geauga County have been delayed unnecessarily.

The November Planning Commission meeting, during which no quorum to achieve any business resulted when commission members needed to leave, starting about 9:05 AM, fit the above-mentioned pattern to a T. Consequently, the December 14 Planning Commission meeting was scheduled for 7:30-10 AM to allow for serious discussions and decision-making. As it turned out, the meeting entailed the need for an executive session that lasted about an hour and resulted in an adjournment of 9:45 A.M. Although Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri followed his typical behavior of arriving a bit late, there was a clear quorum to do business, the only two absences were Tracy Engle and Bob Rogish. Attendees were Bainbridge Trustee, Lorrie Benza; county employees, David Lair and Linda Burhenne; and this writer.

Although USGS, dealing with the monitoring of a number of Geauga County water wells, was thought to be resolved some months earlier, it was again a topic of business because time ran out at the November meeting before the proposed draft letter could be discussed and resolved. The Director, David Dietrich, noted a lack of action/direction from the Board of County Commissioners on this issue. Planning Commission Chairman, Charlie Stevens, responded that the Board of County Commissioners is able to take action on its own and any further response from that body is independent of and irrelevant to the course of action taken by the Planning Commission. David Lair responded that the Board of County Commissioners definitely needs to take action and suggested that the Department of Water Resources would be reimbursed for pursuing the actions necessary for the implementation of a modified water-monitoring plan. Mr. Stevens responded that the intent of the draft letter is to gather feedback from elected trustees, not to gain any authorization to implement a water-monitoring program on the county level.

Mr. Claypool noted that the Planning Commission is a proper venue to start gathering information regarding the usefulness of the water-monitoring program. The draft letter, as he saw it, was more complex than it needs to be because it gives/asks for too much information. Mr. Dietrich responded that the November trustee elections resulted in the choice of some new trustees. They may not be totally aware of the most current status of the water-well monitoring program. Additionally, as a result of new electees, the appointment of new zoning inspectors with only limited knowledge may result in January organizational meetings in some townships. Mr. Stevens acknowledged that many zoning inspectors “do not know much.” Mr. Dietrich speculated that the appointment of new zoning inspectors will likely result in more phone calls to him. “New appointees will decide to call Dave [Dietrich]” rather than seek clarification with members of the Planning Commission. Mr. Stevens clarified that he had written the draft letter only as a starting point.

Commissioner Spidalieri said, “The frustration on my part [ with the Planning Commission?] was that there was a committee to go forward. At the GTA meeting at the Patterson Fruit Farm [The Chester Township dinner meeting in July was the only one that Mr. Spidalieri has attended, per this writer’s memory], two trustees came up to volunteer paying their portion of the USGS monitoring agreement. A lot of people are political. I couldn’t care shit about the politics. If it’s right, it’s right. I trust Dave [Dietrich]. He is common sense. . . Some of the trustees with the biggest mouths aren’t touching this. . .Before we send something like this, we need to discuss this thoroughly. We need to ask the people we have in place to do this. . .” Recommending the assistance of Health Director, Bob Weisdeck; Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation District Director, Carmella Shales; and Water Services Department Director, Gerry Morgan; Spidalieri added that “the trustees are going to be confused [by the questions in the draft letter].”

Chairman Stevens noted that he had followed through on the phone with Weisdeck, Ms. Shales, and Morgan. He noted that the Health Department was the only county office to verify that it had received data from him. Water Services does not use any of the information requested in the draft letter; in fact, up to two years ago, Director Morgan had no knowledge about the USGS Water Monitoring Agreement. Soil and Water Director Shales noted to Stevens that she utilizes water data maintained by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and has utilized such data about Great Lakes Cheese in Parkman. She also acknowledged to Mr. Stevens that Soil and Water cannot make townships do anything or provide any data. In the end, Mr. Stevens noted his agreement with Commissioner Spidalieri on the need for more analysis. Unlike Mr. Spidalieri, Mr. Stevens specified the need for feedback from local trustees to the Planning Commission regarding the usefulness of the USGS information.

Commissioner Spidalieri noted to Chairman Stevens,”I’d like to make a motion to make you head of the commission to take charge. “

Chairman Stevens: “We can approve this letter as amended. I would be happy to follow up. We can make a request that the Board of County Commissioners also act, or we can sit back and do nothing. If I’m chair, I am prepared to move this board forward.” The Spidalieri motion was approved, and Mr. Stevens acknowledged assumption of the chairmanship of the committee to follow-up on the letter to local trustees and their respective zoning inspectors, and zoning boards.

When Commissioner Claypool recommended some adjustments to the procedure, there was silence.
Noted Planning Commission member, Caterina Cocca-Fulton, “We put in blood, sweat, and tears. If the Planning Commission is the most informed, why do we need another committee? That is why I’m not on board.”

Planning Commission member, Cathy Cotman: “Do you have what you need? What do the Commissioners need to to forward?. . .What I’m asking is, whom do you want to hear from? Three months from the contract, can you have the questions we need?”

In answer to a question from attendee Lorrie Benza to Planning Director Dietrich to identify legal challenges presented to Geauga townships regarding the issue of water. The latter cited Ketchel v. Bainbridge Township. Chairman Stevens noted that the only intent of the draft letter is to gather information and then asked for a second on the motion to accept the language of the draft letter. Spidalieri seconded, followed by a 4-4 vote to accept. As chairman of the Planning Commission and entitled to cast the tie-breaking vote, Mr. Stevens voted to approve the letter and move forward with work on the USGS follow-up with Geauga townships. He also noted that at the next meeting of the Planning Commission [January 9. 2017], county department directors, Morgan, Weisdeck, and Shales will present. He also noted his intention to invite some of the “more knowledgeable” trustees. “If we don’t move forward, I will vote against the contract in August [2018].”

Commissioner Lennon fell back on a theme he has publicly voiced before. “I think USGS is the one getting the most out of this letter. They should be paying us. If there’s a different level of testing, I’m okay with that.”

About that time [8:35 AM], a unanimous vote taken during roll call authorized the Planning Commission to go into an executive session [ORC 121.22G1] to consider staffing. Employees, or compensation of employees. Said session lasted about one hour with no comment made in public to those in attendance.

Published Thursday, December 14, 2017

On November 28, 2017, this website published a commentary regarding commissioner dialogue on use of employee time. As a result of that dialogue there was unanimous agreement to write a letter to Geauga County employees based upon a Butler County Board of Commissioners letter cited and read by County Administrator David Lair.

At the December 5, 2017, meeting the Geauga County Commissioners voted unanimously to approve agenda item number 17: “The Commissioners’ Office is requesting the Board approve and execute a Letter to the Employees of the Commissioners’ Hiring Authority regarding clarification of activities and expectations with and from the Board of Commissioners.” As a result of a public information request, this writer has on this date received a copy of the Geauga County Commissioners’ letter, which includes a word-for-word incorporation of three of the four paragraphs of the Butler County Commissioners’ letter.

The communication dated December 5, 2017, notes that any work undertaken by Geauga County employees must be the result of at least a 2-to-1 majority vote of the Geauga County Commissioners. Both communications have been included for our readers’ understanding.

Published Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The elected officials of Chardon, that is, the mayor and the members of its council, recently sent a request to Geauga County officials that the county provide financial assistance for the improvement of “the wall currently separating East Park Street from the elevated parking area serving the County Courthouse.” We have included photos of the two-foot high barrier. In response, Commissioners Spidalieri, Claypool, and Lennon sent back a written note dated December 5, 2017. We have included that correspondence as well.

The Commissioners in their response note that since Chardon, and not Geauga County, is owner of the parcel housing both the courthouse and the wall, maintenance issues of those structures are not the responsibility of the county unless Chardon is willing to offer ownership of the north end of Chardon Square to the county.

In the meantime, Geauga County is currently in the process of completing a feasibility study to determine the most efficient location and operation of all county departments. The results of this study will determine if county offices remain at Chardon-owned property or relocate to county-owned property. Study results should be available in early 2018.

Published Saturday, December 9, 2017

According to two articles published on Cleveland.com (Cleveland Plain Dealer) on December 8 by Steven Litt, the Northeastern Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a municipal planning organization [MPO] headed by Grace Gallucci, will be using gas tax money usually reserved for traditional highway projects to undertake a feasibility study headed by Hyperloop Transportation Technologies, a private California consortium. According to Litt ( “NOACA board votes to explore possible Hyperloop partnership. . .”), who regularly contributes articles about urban planning, the Hyperloop would ship both passengers and freight up to 500 miles through a series of vacuum-activated tubes envisioned by entrepreneur Elon Musk. According to Litt, Cleveland and Columbus are potentially competitors for being part of the Hyperloop route.

The leadership of NOACA met Friday, December 8, to give NOACA Director, Grace Gallucci, the power to spend $600,000 of gas-tax money returned to northeast Ohio to embark on the feasibility study and to “find” another $600,000 in “grant” monies. The total cost of the study is estimated at $1,200,000.

Although the directorship of NOACA voted unanimously to authorize Gallucci to spend $600,000 to promote Cleveland as “the Hyperloop city,” there were some expressed concerns. Valarie McCall, the chief of governmental affairs for the City of Cleveland, voiced her concerns that the Hyperloop project could cause NOACA “to neglect our other transportation needs.” Perennial NOACA critic, Commissioner Skip Claypool voiced concern that the futuristic Hyperloop feasibility study might remove money from local traditional road projects.

Litt in a second article (“NOACA boosts protected bike lane projects. . .”) noted that NOACA has allotted $47 million in federal dollars to 21 projects, including two that could create the first major protected bike lanes.” Both the Hyperlink One and the projected bike lanes appear to this writer to be a huge departure for the traditional use of returned tax dollars in maintaining and improving traditional paved highways reserved for car and truck travel. NOACA has reportedly allocated $8.3 million for 2.5 miles of bike lanes in the middle of Superior Avenue, $6.1 million for construction of a cycle route along Lorain Avenue, and a bicycle lane on the Detroit Superior Bridge. According to author Litt, $33.5 million of the $47 million total allocation is devoted to bicycle and pedestrian projects, or alternate/multi-modal means of transport.

Inasmuch as the funding for projects underwritten by NOACA results from monies collected from gasoline purchases, this writer believes that NOACA has been given too much authority for the distribution of those dollars back to the gasoline purchasers to favor urban dwellers who do not necessarily pay taxes on either income or use of fuel or even utilize gasoline-powered vehicles.

Outlying member counties have allegedly benefited infrequently from the allocation of NOACA dollars because it appears that NOACA is established to benefit urban areas at the expense of “rural” counties that have been dragged into membership in the organization. Consequently, talks continue about the possibility of some of these “rural” counties leaving NOACA. These talks have been ongoing since 2012. The counties “served” by NOACA are Cuyahoga, Medina, Lorain, Lake, and Geauga. Geauga County residents and elected officials have been the most vocal about withdrawing from the organization on the grounds that the $31 million annual membership fee does not provide any return on investment. Recently, additional support for leaving the organization reportedly also is viewed with favor in Lake County.

Published on Monday, December 4, 2017

Former Geauga County employee, Stephen Decatur, 58, the subject of an October search warrant by county and municipal law officers as well as an investigation by the County Prosecutor’s Office found his municipal trial dismissed by Judge Terri Stupica. Instead, he is now the subject of a fourth-degree felony charge in Geauga Common Pleas Court case 17C000206 on November 27, 2017. Initially suspected of stealing about $250,000, which was transferred to an overseas account allegedly held by a daughter, Decatur is now suspected by reliable sources of having been responsible for the disappearance of up to $2,400,000. Although the case originally had no judge assigned, official notification by Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor indicates that a visiting retired judge will be in charge of the trial. Official indictments in addition to Mr. Decatur have been alleged to be in the works during the month of January, 2018. Mr. Decatur is being formally represented by Laurence A. Turbow, LPA, Inc.

Published Sunday, December 3, 2017

At the November 28 Geauga Commissioner Meeting, the County Planning Commission came up at least twice. Agenda item 11 was “The Commissioners’ Office is requesting the Board approve the revised job description for the position of Planner (#406) to be effective November 28, 2017.” Current Planning Director David Dietrich announced his planned retirement nearly six months ago, and the Commissioners have been engaged in the search for a replacement ever since.
Ralph Spidalieri noted that the interview team should consist of Dietrich and county employees Linda Burhenne and David Lair, the county administrator. To those in attendance, Spidalieri’s announcement appeared to be an attack on the practice of county commissioners sitting in on employee interviews. More specifically, the statement could be interpreted as an attack on the practice of Commissioner Claypool of sitting in on interviews of candidates to fill county positions.

In response to Mr. Spidalieri’s statement, Commissioner Claypool noted that any potential replacement for Dietrich should be interviewed in the presence of at least one Planning Commission member, especially the President of the Planning Commission, Charles Stevens. Mr. Spidalieri was observed to provide a shocked look in response to the suggestion. Agenda item 11 passed with three affirmative votes.

In addition to the revised job description, the commissioner meeting provided more information about the December 14 meeting. Typically, the meeting would have been the second Tuesday of the month [December 12], but because of the annual meeting of county commissioners on a statewide basis (CCAO) beginning December 8, some of the commissioners will be out of town. In the past Commissioner Spidalieri has not attended the annual conference, and Commissioner Lennon’s plans have not been communicated. It is widely expected that Commissioner Claypool will be in attendance for the fourth year in a row at the conference. Therefore, both the December Planning Commission meeting and the weekly Commissioner meeting will occur on Thursday, December 14.

Since January 2017 Planning Commission meetings have been scheduled for 7:50 AM, at the suggestion of Commissioner Spidalieri for his convenience in being able to go right to the Commissioner meeting at 9 AM. As a result, the last several Planning Commission meetings have been unable to resolve all the business before Planning Commission members because County Commissioners have been required to exit at/about 9 AM to conduct the County Commissioner meetings. Those in attendance can attest that Commissioner meetings have been delayed as much as half an hour because of the inability to finish all Planning Commission business by 9 AM.

In recognition of this conflict between Planning Commission and County Commissioner meetings, the December 14 Planning Commission will extend from 7:30 until 10:00 AM. Those attendees who have come to expect a 9:00 AM start time on December 14 are to be apprised that the County Commissioner meeting of that morning will not begin until 10 AM.

Additionally, it was noted that December 14 will be a very busy day for Commissioners. Consequently, the planned 10:30 feasibility study meeting with associates from Richard Bowen has been postponed. There will still be a viewing for the Commissioners that day of an unnamed street in Parkman running north from Doty Road to the Portage County line. The purpose of that meeting is to vacate that unnamed street.

Published Thursday, November 9, 2017

Effective November 1, 2017, Mary Brigid Matheney [Bridey], notorious for her late November 2016 DUI arrest by Bainbridge Police, is no longer an employee of the Geauga County Prosecutor’s Office. Matheney was the assistant prosecutor notorious for following Auburn Township current trustees’ instructions to litigate against residents whose agricultural pursuits allegedly caused them to violate township zoning. In reality, as the Auburn Township Trustees discovered in several cases, agriculture is totally exempt from township zoning regulations because of ORC 519.21.

According to the Geauga County Prosecutor’s website and remarks made by Prosecutor Flaiz at the November 8, 2017, Geauga Township Association dinner meeting, Kristen Rine has been hired to perform duties in the Civil Division of the that office. Reportedly, Matheney has accepted a position with Dolan, Thrasher, Dinsmore. According to reliable sources, she has assumed the role of Geauga Park District counsel as replacement for David Ondrey, who reportedly will be actively seeking the seat of retiring Geauga County Common Pleas Judge, Forrest Burke. That seat will become vacant on January 1, 2018.

By Mark Naymik, cleveland.com mnaymik@cleveland.com
Published November 3, 2017

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, a publicly-funded entity that helps governments with transportation and environmental planning, contends that data and other material it compiled for the region's bid to attract Amazon's second headquarters are trade secrets that taxpayers are not entitled to see.

Cleveland.com recently requested the information it gathered for Team NEO, the private, nonprofit economic-development group that spearheaded the region's bid for the Amazon headquarters.

A week after the request was made, NOACA's attorney, Nancy Griffith, said in a written statement that information cleveland.com is seeking is protected under Ohio law.

"The requested records are proprietary and a 'trade secret' of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency, Amazon, Inc. and the various public and private entities that supplied information in the records under Ohio Rev. Code Ann. 1333.61(D) and State ex rel. Besser v. Ohio St. Univ., 87 Ohio St.3d 535, 721 N.E.2d 1044 (2000)," she wrote. "As such, we are unable to release such records and must deny your request."

But cleveland.com did not request Amazon's bid. The request was only for information NOACA contributed. Griffith and NOACA Executive Director Grace Gallucci ignored cleveland.com's follow-up questions seeking a description of what materials NOACA is withholding and the release of non-trade secret material.

In her email, Griffith also referred to the Amazon bid as confidential. But such secrecy was not mandated by Amazon. The company required the groups that participated in generating the proposal to not disclose information about Amazon. But an Amazon spokeswoman told The Plain Dealer that bidders are free to share what they want about their proposal.

First Amendment attorney David Marburger, who is an expert on open records law and co-author of the book, "Access with Attitude," a guide to freedom of information in Ohio, said neither state law -- nor the case cited by NOACA's attorney -- allows governments or public agencies to broadly apply "trade secret" exemptions.

"It doesn't mean anything they say is trade secret is a trade secret," Marburger said.

Marburger, who retired in 2015 from the national law firm BakerHostetler after more than 32 years, said that public data, for instance, is "no way anti-competitive" if shared. He said people should challenge public bodies when they use blanket claims of trade secrets. 

Cleveland.com filed a complaint in the Ohio Court of Claims on Wednesday, after NOACA denied the records request and failed to even clarify items being withheld. The court handles mediation in public records disputes.

Last week, Gallucci disputed a cleveland.com story that stated NOACA was refusing to provide documents. She said the agency had not refused, but instead was reviewing the request and would get back to cleveland.com. NOACA did not respond until cleveland.com pressed the agency for an answer.

When Gallucci was first contacted, she would not discuss the material and referred cleveland.com to Dix and Eaton Public Relations. She later said the referral was not meant as a denial, but meant to be helpful and "consistent with my team's directive on a point person for media coordination." A spokesman for Dix and Eaton said at the time that NOACA was not told to withhold information.

(This post was updated to include comments from attorney David Marburger.)

NOACA's board of directors and members include many public elected officials and others representing public agencies. Here are their names, according to NOACA's website.

President: Adam Friedrick,
Medina County Commissioner

First Vice President: Armond Budish,
Cuyahoga County Executive

Second Vice President: Valarie J. McCall,
Chief of Government and International Affairs, City of Cleveland

Secretary: Timothy C. Lennon,
Geauga County Commissioner

Assistant Secretary: Holly C. Brinda,
Mayor of Elyria, Lorain County

Assistant Secretary: Michael P. Summers,
Mayor of Lakewood, Cuyahoga County

Treasurer: Ted Kalo,
Lorain County Commissioner

Assistant Treasurer: James R. Gills, P.E., P.S.
Lake County Engineer

Assistant Treasurer: Susan K. Infeld,
Mayor of University Heights, Cuyahoga County

Immediate Past Board President
Daniel P. Troy
Lake County Commissioner

Board of Directors Members

Cuyahoga County (fifteen members)
Samuel J. Alai, Mayor of Broadview Heights
Pamela Bobst, Mayor of Rocky River
Tanisha R. Briley, City Manager of Cleveland Heights
Armond Budish, County Executive
Glenn Coyne, Executive Director, Planning Commission
Timothy J. DeGeeter, Mayor of Parma
Michael W. Dever, MPA, Public Works Director
Ann Marie Donegan, Mayor of Olmsted Falls
Anthony T. Hairston, Cuyahoga County Council
Kirsten Holzheimer Gail, Mayor of Euclid
Susan K. Infeld, Mayor of University Heights
David H. Roche, Mayor of Richmond Heights
Charles E. Smith, Jr., Mayor of Woodmere
Robert A. Stefanik, Mayor of North Royalton
Michael P. Summers, Mayor of Lakewood

City of Cleveland (six members)
Anthony Brancatelli, Councilman, Ward 12
Freddy Collier Jr., Director, City Planning Commission
Martin J. Keane, Councilman, Ward 17
Valarie J. McCall, Chief of Government and International Affairs
Terrell Pruitt, Councilman, Ward 1
Matthew L. Spronz, P.E., PMP, Capital Projects Director

Geauga County (three members)
Walter "Skip" Claypool, County Commissioner
Timothy C. Lennon, County Commissioner
Ralph Spidalieri, County Commissioner

Lake County (five members)
Ben Capelle, General Manager, Laketran
Jerry C. Cirino, County Commissioner
James R. Gills, P.E., P.S., County Engineer
John R. Hamercheck, County Commissioner
Daniel P. Troy, County Commissioner

Lorain County (seven members)
Holly C. Brinda, Mayor of Elyria
Kenneth P. Carney, Sr. P.E., P.S., County Engineer
Richard Heidecker, Columbia Township Trustee
John D. Hunter, Mayor of Sheffield Village
Ted Kalo, County Commissioner
Matt Lundy, County Commissioner
Chase M. Ritenauer, Mayor of Lorain

Medina County (four members)
Lynda Bowers, Lafayette Township Trustee
Andrew H. Conrad, P.E., P.S., County Engineer
Adam Friedrick, County Commissioner
Robert Patrick, Service Director, City of Wadsworth

Regional and State (five members)

Joseph A. Calabrese, CEO and General Manager, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA)
(one representative)
Kyle Dreyfuss-Wells, CEO, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD)
(one representative)
William D. Friedman, President/CEO, Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority
(one representative)
Myron S. Pakush, Deputy Director, Ohio Department of Transportation - District 12
(one representative)
Kurt Princic, Chief, Northeast District Office Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
(ex officio member)

Published Wednesday, November 1, 2017

For a good part of 2016/2017, public sessions of the Auburn Township Zoning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals were left unposted or incorrectly posted, signaling a complete lack of respect for the voters who pay salaries to individuals to keep these reports current.

A recent examination of all the “posted” public meeting minutes has revealed that several meetings of the Board of Zoning Appeals were omitted, some incorrectly omitted the meeting content, and many of the minutes that finally showed up were posted on just two dates:

Wednesday, June 28, 2017, for October, November, and December 2016 and January 2017 Zoning Commission meetings

Friday, August 18, 2017, for January, February, and March, May and June 2017 Zoning
Commission meetings

Additionally, an announcement incorrectly identified as the minutes from the May 23, 2017, BZA meeting was actually the announcement of the meeting. It was added online the day BEFORE the actual BZA meeting and has remained in error. This writer was able to retrieve the correct minutes per her public document request of Monday, October 30, 2017, and retrieved from Fiscal Officer Fred May, who verbally announced his intention of “talking with Nancy [Dolezal].” This writer retrieved that information on Tuesday, October 31, 2017, one week before the election date for Trustees.

Check out the entry for the Board of Zoning Appeals for 5/23/2017 to see if the correction has been
made just days before Auburn voters decide the Trustee contest. The evidence demonstrates that minutes from public meetings were hidden or obscured for more than eight months until an impending Trustee election created an incredible embarrassment for incumbent Trustees and Auburn Township office staff.

When you vote for Trustee on November 7, eliminate the carelessness, negligence, and lack of transparency that has characterized the office of the incumbent Auburn Trustees for TOO many years.

Speak your minds, Auburn voters. You deserve so much better than you have received over the last more than twenty years.

Published Saturday, October 22, 2017

The Geauga County Commissioners have been meeting at two week intervals with Richard L. Bowen Associates, Inc., for the last several months to determine the feasibility of changing the location of county offices. Bowen has been meeting with county department heads. On Tuesday, October 17, after meeting with City of Chardon mayor and department heads, those officials showed up for the work study session in commissioners’ chambers just prior to the beginning of the meeting at 10:45 AM.

Among the Chardon personnel in attendance were Mayor Nancy McArthur, Police Prosecutor Jim Gillette, and City Manager Randy Sharpe. The two members of Bowen noted that few of the work sessions with governmental officials were ever public, as this one was. McArthur observed that the procedure was premature, noting that “I just wanted the Commissioners to know that the meeting wasn’t formal.” She also expressed concern that the Chardon officials interviewed by Bowen did not receive a questionnaire stipulated in writing on Bowen paperwork. Gillette asked, “Didn’t the Commissioners do a study ten years ago?” County Administrator David Lair responded that yes, a study had been completed at that time by Cleveland State and that the data from that study had already been provided to Bowen.

The Bowen associates observed that the process was a couple of weeks behind. Therefore, they expected Phase I of the study to be completed on November 17. Additionally, they promised another update every two weeks. The next meetings will be October 28, November 14, November 20, and December 14, with the next meeting in January 2018. Commissioner Claypool observed to the Bowen Associates that “you guys are doing a good job.”

The Bowen associates noted that “we got out of it what we wanted.” Additionally, they remarked that they were “happy to hear anything Nancy [Chardon Mayor McArthur] has to say.” Claypool added, “Chardon is an important shareholder. Hopefully, we can make it a good transition for everyone.”

The Bowen associates noted their intention to provide “some minutes [from the October 18 meetings with both Chardon officials and the Commissioners] to share with you.”

The meeting adjourned after one-half hour at 11:45 AM.

Published Saturday, October 14, 2017

Four members of the Planning Commission were absent: Coca-Fulton, Miller, Rogish, and Engle.
Commissioner Claypool introduced Ted Dyven and Gregory Tropf to explain their personal trials and tribulations with local zoning commissions. Mr. Dyven noted that he is a member of the Mayfield United Methodist Church in Chester. He highlighted three separate church experiences which resulted in frustrations with Chester zoning. The church is situated on 33 acres.

When the church wanted to construct a 20x30 storage building to house equipment for disaster relief, the zoning commission, according to Mr. Dyven, put church leaders through the ringer. Although ultimately the Chester Board of Zoning Appeals gave approval for the building, the process cost $5,000 in legal fees. Mr. Dyven believes that the hassle was deplorable.

Then the church wished to install a low profile, electronic sign to promote the free dinners provided once a month to members of the community. Although West Geauga High School already had such a sign, the church never was able to gain approval.

Finally, the church asked permission to be able to authorize a farmers’ market for four hours every Wednesday. Such an action would have benefited the local food movement and the members of the public who desired fresh produce. In spite of the offers of help from one Chester trustee, the concept of a farmers’ market on church property failed because of zoning decisions in Chester.

The second speaker was Greg Tropf, a Newbury resident running for the office of trustee in that community. He noted that the Newbury Zoning Commission has determined home businesses to be illegal. He identified zoning boards as entities that overstep their power way too much. If the Geauga Planning Commission could do something about removing excessive power from these township boards, “it would be better for everyone.” He gave the example of a company on Kinsman Road that had been mulching/composting organic matter for many years. A complaint from a Newbury resident resulted in the Newbury BZA’s ruling that the mulching operation could no longer exist. As a result, the operation relocated to Munn Road in Auburn Township on land formerly operated by the Kuhnle family. Zoning boards, Mr. Tropf continued, “are not listening to the people. Is there anything this group can do to improve the situation?”

Commissioner Claypool noted that Ohio Revised Code is the guide for proper organization of township appointed-appointed board authority. He emphasized that county boards like the Planning Commission “serve the folks of this county.” Planning Commission member Gary Enola noted that although zoning should not be too restrictive, it is a kind of “blanket procedure.” Chairman Charlie Stevens responded that when there seem to be inequities in zoning appeals cases, it is necessary to examine the details of each case.

At this point the commission turned to the minutes of the September Planning Commission meeting. Planning Commission member Tom Jones noted in response to concerns raised at that meeting that there may have been an irregularity concerning Open Meetings Act that as far back as the November 2016 meeting of the Geauga Township Association dinner meeting in Bainbridge, the Geauga Prosecutor (James Flaiz) announced to everyone present, including news media, that Planning Commission members were “paper tigers” [actual quote was “paper tigers.”] He also noted that at the September meeting, Planning Director David Dietrich had identified himself as author of the model zoning code removed from the Planning Commission website in late 2016 and appearing on the Geauga County Prosecutor’s web-page. The model zoning now appears at both web-pages after many months of discussion at Planning Commission monthly meetings. The board approved the addition to the minutes of David Dietrich’s admission of authorship.

The Department of Water Services Director spoke about two sewer easements. The Planning Commission was considering the approval of twenty-foot wide sewer easements of 82.4 feet in Hawksmoor and 1447.21 feet in Canyon Lakes, both in Bainbridge Township. There was the notation that as a result of infestation by Indiana bats, the trees need to be harvested shortly. According to documentation presented to the Planning Commission, the surveyor for both projects was LIB, Inc. (Harry Herbst III). In each case, the County Commissioners invited bids for the project in July 2017. Each of the two plats was signed on September 18, 2017, by Bainbridge Zoning Inspector, Karen Endress. Commission member Cathy Cotman received confirmation that both projects consisted of replacing eroded easement pipe with new pipe when Water Services noted that the easement will remain as parallel sewers on either side of the Chagrin River.

Commissioner Lennon asked if the developers were paying part of the charges on the sewer easement. Water Services Director Gerry Morgan answered that the developers have already turned the easement over to the county, at which point the county has assumed all financial responsibility for any upgrades or changes. Nevertheless, the developer is paying for the tie-in. Cathy Cotman asked if the improvement costs are passed on to the residents. David Dietrich responded that when subdivisions are phased in, developers have to pay for everything. Ultimately, the Commissioners accept the responsibility. Mrs. Cotman next asked if all sewer assessments cover all the sewer expenses? The response was that all collected fees cover the costs of operation.

The Hawksmoor and Canyon Lakes projects, considered as one, were unanimously approved by the Planning Commission.

With the approval of Hambden ZC-2017-02, that community became the latest to prohibit medical marijuana according to ORC 519.21. When Commissioner Spidalieri asked which communities have not imposed a prohibition of medical marijuana, David Dietrich responded Parkman, Huntsburg, and Chardon. There are two applications for operation of medical marijuana in Middlefield Village.

Planning Commission Secretary, Karen Baptie, has retired. Jessica Lange is the replacement for Karen Baptie. Additionally, there will be a back-up for Jessica.

The USGS again became the topic of conversation when Commissioner Lennon recalled that the final contract approved by the commissioners was a little different from the original. He wanted to know which entities would be authorized to use the information gathered by the USGS. Commissioner Claypool recalled that he had contacted Martha Jagucki of USGS to get an extension on final contract language, but she had not been willing to extend any flexibility. Well depth monitoring, he opined, does not actually reflect much. He added that he had asked if Geauga County could monitor a larger number of private water wells, and Jagucki had answered affirmatively, so a valuable conversation might be possible. The Department of Water Resources, the Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation District, the Department of Health, and the Planning Commission all could be instrumental in providing better approaches to the issue of water-well monitoring.

When asked by Chairman Stevens who would be best qualified to handle the well-monitoring, Planning Director David Dietrich noted that the best choice might be the Department of Water Resources. In response, Chairman Stevens suggested inviting both the Department of Water Resources (Gerry Morgan) and the Department of Health (Robert Weisdeck) to the next Planning Commission meeting. Stevens recommended instead that he or someone else from the Planning Commission set up an outside meeting to discuss the potential issues with USGS.

Mrs. Cotman noted that the next time USGS gets the latest updates, Jessica should send out a reminder to all the townships to return pertinent information about how each township has utilized the information monitored by USGS. Then Jessica could follow-up in six weeks to impress upon the townships the critical nature of sharing the well-monitoring information that was/is relevant to each of the townships.

When Claypool asked what the correct methodology might be, Planning Director Dietrich responded that the Health Department and the Department of Water Resources both have an important impact on water quality management.

Chairman Stevens voiced his willingness to follow-up and asked when the next data update from USGS could be expected. Commissioner Claypool responded that few individuals know how to utilize the data. Chairman Stevens then recommended a letter reminding all interested parties in the townships to advise the Planning Commission how they had used the USGS data during the year.

Commissioner Lennon noted the presence of observer, Bainbridge Trustee Lorri Benza, at the last meeting and asked Tom Jones what purpose her visit may have served. Mr. Jones noted his own confusion about that topic and then noted that perhaps Benza had suggested violation of the Open Meetings Act by one or more bodies. He concluded that “all our bases” had been covered.

Chairman Stevens added that regarding the USGS there are “a lot of spinning wheels” regarding data collection. Commissioner Lennon opined that USGS should properly be paying Geauga County for the privilege of receiving the well-water data. Claypool noted that if some townships feel strongly about well-monitoring, they should help fund the procedure.

Commissioner Spidalieri appeared to go off-topic when he introduced the point-of-sale septic tank inspections in effect for the last couple of years in Geauga County, but the comment generated a healthy discussion. Planning Director Dietrich noted that he believed Geauga County to be the only county doing point-of-sale inspections, but real estate contracts reference these procedures. He added that the point-of-sale inspection has become a benchmark to measure how well septic systems are working, but cost and timing are valid concerns.

Spidalieri followed-up that citizens are unable to talk to the members of the board controlling this action. Lennon agreed, noting that “they are constantly moving the goalposts for the people.” He added that there are some unqualified inspectors, but he felt unsure what could be done to improve the process because even septic installers are avoiding servicing Geauga County. In Cuyahoga County, he noted, it is possible to get the services of a septic installer within twenty-four hours, but in Geauga County that same process can take as long as two weeks. In response, Planning Director Dietrich praised septic systems. Commissioner Lennon, with the final comment of the meeting, expressed his belief that the Ohio EPA was not on the side of septic systems.

The meeting adjourned at 9:05 AM

Published Sunday, October 1, 2017

The second public hearing of the intention of Geauga County to add three permissive taxes to the cost of vehicle registration starting in 2019 brought a quick response from the City of Chardon in writing and in person at the September 26, 2017, Commissioners meeting. Prior to the 9:15 AM public hearing, Chardon Mayor and multiple city officials, including former county financial officer, Heidi Delaney, came in to occupy an entire row close to the front of the chambers. County Engineer Joe Cattell and Public Relations Liaison, Frank Antenucci, quickly stated the case, as is required by Ohio Revised Code. They no sooner finished when Mayor McArthur and the Financial Director communicated their concerns that the increased $15 for each vehicle license would precipitate the decision of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, located on Water Street across the street from Richards maple sugar products to leave the city and deplete the revenue collection. City officials reported that Enterprise, which registers thirteen thousand vehicles in Chardon City, would respond to the extra cost by setting up headquarters somewhere else where the cost of vehicle registration is less expensive and more conducive to a better bottom line.

All three Commissioners responded to the argument put forth by Chardon officials. At one point Ralph Spidalieri elicited laughter from those in the room. “Heidi, would you like to come up here just for old time’s sake?” He was referencing Heidi Delaney’s ten-year run as Geauga County’s financial expert. In that capacity Mrs. Delaney had reported weekly expenses at each commissioner meeting. She left the county’s employment to join the City of Chardon about two years ago.

Mayor McArthur introduced Matt Bergangik, Chardon Financial Director. He noted that in 2009 the City of Chardon collected $275,000 in vehicle registration fees. In 2016, Enterprise was responsible for $723,750 of the $965,000 in vehicle registration fees. Bergangik speculated that Enterprise would leave Chardon for a location with fewer permissive vehicle registration taxes. However, when we do the math the 20,000 registrations at $5 is $100,000 not $965,000. In addition, 15,000 of those registrations are from Enterprise or $75,000. Why does Chardon need to inflate the numbers? Additionally, the city of Chardon is lumping in revenue from state fuel taxes to reach the $965,000 dollars. How can the city of Chardon conclude that fuel tax income is dependent on vehicle registration fees?

Engineer Cattell asked, “What would make you think Enterprise would leave? What would motivate them? What is the better alternative?”

Shortly thereafter Mayor McArthur acknowledged, “We have not talked to Enterprise.” This admission reinforced the speculation that Chardon officials had no documentation for their allegation that Enterprise would leave if Geauga County decided to implement three voluntary permissive taxes to increase the cost of vehicle registration by $15 starting on January 1, 2019.

Commissioner Claypool noted, “I am having trouble with these numbers. There are 20,000 registered vehicles, but only 13,000 from Enterprise.”

Frank Antenucci noted that the addition of three permissive vehicle registration taxes “has overwhelming support from the townships.”

Commissioner Lennon added, “Keeping tax rates so low was not best practices. Without Enterprise here [to speak], this is conjecture, but I can understand your position.”

The hearing was closed at 9:30 AM after fifteen minutes of dialogue. The Chardon officials left the Commissioners’ Chambers, and the regular portion of the agenda resumed.

These taxes will go into effect on January 1, 2019, thereby increasing each auto registration by $15.

Published Saturday, September 23, 2017

Based on a July 2016 report published by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Geauga County total income from permissive vehicle tax was a mere $615,425. For the same time period neighboring Ashtabula County revenues from permissive vehicle taxes topped $1,900,000. while Lake County revenues from the same source were nearly $1,100,000. Medina County’s total permissive vehicle tax revenues were just shy of $3,000,000. Lorain County’s collection was just about $2,800,000. Portage County was at $2,800,000. Stark County was just a hair shy of $7,000,000. Mahoning County exceeded $4,000,000. Cuyahoga County’s revenue from permissive vehicle taxes for the same time period was $21,600,000. Why did the income of neighboring counties exceed that of Geauga County so extravagantly? These other counties had authorized the implementation of multiple permissive vehicle taxes, all authorized under various parts of Ohio Revised Code 4504.

The first “original $5 tax” has been around since ORC 4504.02 authorized its existence in 1967. The second $5 permissive vehicle tax is called “the first new $5 tax.” It was authorized by ORC4504.15 in 1988. The total income generated by the language was to be split between local and county governments, either 50-50 between municipalities and the county or between townships and counties with counties receiving 70% and townships getting 30%.

The “second new $5 tax,” authorized by ORC 4504.16 around 1991, goes entirely to the county from vehicle registrations in municipalities. For registrations in the townships, 70% of the revenues go to the county and 30% go to the townships.

The Geauga County Engineer’s Office appeared at the Geauga County Commissioner Meeting of September 19 for the first public hearing for approval of three permissive $5 taxes to be administered with the registration of vehicles in Geauga County beginning in 2019.

One of the more important rationalizations for the availability of permissive vehicle taxes is the increase in the cost of road materials since 2005. The resource whose cost has surged the most appears to be manufactured asphalt; details provided by the Geauga County Engineer’s Office has documented cost increase to be 183% to 192%. Aggregates like limestone pebbles have also become more expensive, with documentation citing the increase to be 92%, followed by steel rebar at 85%. Both reconstruction and resurfacing costs have increased since 1996. According to written documentation submitted by the Geauga Engineer’s Office, road reconstruction costs have nearly tripled in the stipulated time period, while resurfacing costs have increased from about $100,000 to $200,000 per mile. Another factor in significant road cost expense has been the 133% increase in the price of road salt, particularly during a year when salt supplies are scarce. As a result of increased prices for scarce or limited resources, the Geauga County Engineer’s yearly budget has increased 47% over the last twenty years.

Consequently, the Geauga County Engineer’s Office is in favor of being able to utilize increased revenue that should result from implementation of three permissive vehicle registration fees. Frank Antenucci of the Engineer’s Office noted that one of the most convincing arguments for authorization of permissive vehicle registration fees is that said procedure does not penalize all residents, as does a sales tax upon merchandise and service purchases. Instead, it affects residents who must purchase license plates for vehicles, including those vehicles that use alternative energy. Additionally, Mr. Antenucci verbalized that sharing of revenues between county and townships might serve as an incentive for townships to stop putting new road and bridge levies on the ballot; these issues particularly punish homeowners through real-estate collections.

A cogent argument in favor of implementation of permissive vehicle registration taxes is the analysis of reduced funds distributed to Geauga County by the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency. Documentation of federal aid benefit from the gasoline tax received through NOACA since year 2000 demonstrates that federal money made available to Geauga County for highway projects has dropped significantly. In the beginning Geauga County received more than $1.8 million in one year for county road projects. In 2016 Geauga County received $0 from NOACA in spite of having to pay an annual membership fee of over $25,000. This apparent lack of return to the county of federal gasoline taxes paid by owners of gasoline-consuming motor vehicles leads to speculation that Geauga County might be exploring ways to end its relationship with NOACA, which has recently been promoting construction projects concerned with multimodal transportation (bicycle, for example), not with car/truck transport. The availability of extra revenue as a result of increased vehicle registration fees might create more independence from federal highway funds known to have “strings attached.”

Published Friday, September 15, 2017

Absent from the meeting was Planning Commission President, Charlie Stevens. Catarina Cocca became acting chairman in Mr. Stevens’ absence. Observers were Bainbridge Trustee, Lorrie Sass Benza, and Auburn resident, Diane Jones.

During discussion of the minutes from the August 8 Planning Commission meeting, Planning Commission member, Tom Jones, referenced public comment from the July 25 public hearing in Building 8 at 470 Center Street. Mr. Jones focused on comments about “pump and treat” made by USGS hydrologist, Martha Jagucki, perhaps accidentally. In response, Planning Commission member, Commissioner Walter Claypool noted the need for “meeting minutes with substantial meat. Either we record meetings or take detailed minutes. I don’t know why anyone would oppose such minutes.” Mrs. Cotman reported that she agreed. Both sets of comments were in response to a written communication by Assistant Prosecutor Susan Wieland and an oral statement by Planning Director, David Dietrich, expressing opposition to amended notes/minutes submitted September 5 to the Planning Commission by Mr. Jones taken during the actual July 25 public hearing with the assistance of his voice recorder. At the August Planning Commission meeting Chairman Charles Stevens requested Mr. Jones to make an amended record of the July 25 event after the latter reported that the minutes submitted of that event by Planning Commission staff were unrecognizable to the actual events of the public comment section of that public hearing.

Geauga Commissioner and Planning Commission member, Ralph Spidalieri, was heard to say, “Why don’t we make Tom secretary?” raising the question whether Mr. Spidalieri had a genuine appreciation for Mr. Jones’ work or whether Mr. Spidalieri was responding in a derogatory fashion. Mr. Jones politely declined Mr. Spidalieri’s invitation before referencing the “pump and treat” ongoing action in a well to the south of Middlefield Village. In apparent response, Planning Director Dietrich said that the Middlefield cheese factory dug another well. Also in response, Commissioner Claypool said, “Martha Jagucki [from USGS] did mention that ‘pump and treat’ did have an impact on existing well water levels.”

Several Planning Commission members vocalized their agreement with Tom Jones’ correction of the July 25 meeting minutes. Nevertheless, David Dietrich voiced his criticism of Mr. Jones’ addendum as a “correction,” noting that Planning Commission staff, including himself, had taken notes for the last forty years. Commissioner Claypool made a motion to add Tom Jones’ addendum to the July 25 minutes. Planning Commission member Gary Enola seconded the motion. During the unanimous voice vote to approve, there were two abstentions: Tracey Engle and Catarina Cocca, neither one of whom had been in attendance at the July 25 public hearing.

Mr. Jones noted that at the meeting of August 8, the Planning Commission had voted to accept Option 2 with USGS, at a cost of $15,000. Mr. Jones therefore expressed his surprise that at the September 7 Commissioner meeting the objectives in Option 2 were approved at a cost of $21,500, not the originally-cited $15,000. Commissioner Claypool noted the need to look into the issue, then clarified that the USGS had not given the Commissioners any wiggle room on date or dollar amount to negotiate. Geauga Commissioner Tim Lennon, still clarifying the USGS most current water-monitoring contract, explained, “The USGS contract of 8/31/2017 for $21,500 was not seen by the Planning Commission. This contract was approved by the County Commissioners on September 7, 2017.”

Planning Commission member Cathy Cotman asked, “How are the [Planning Commission] meeting minutes prepared?” Interim Chairman Cocca noted that Planning Commission staff members take notes. David Dietrich responded, “I take notes; Karen has taken notes for years and now so does Jessica.” Mrs. Cotman continued, “Who prepares the initial draft?” David Dietrich: “We all do.”

After approving Planning Commission staff expenses, which included the annual purchase of the $370 book titled, West Planning/Zoning Law 2017, the Planning Commission considered Russell Township Zoning Amendment ZC2017-2: “Driveway shall be ten foot from the nearest side and black lot lines.” The Planning Commission approved the amendment.

The Agenda considered Prosecutor Susan Weiland’s opinion of August 2, 2017. in regard to audio recordings of public Planning Commission meetings. Member Tom Jones noted that the Open Meetings Act speaks to the issue with great clarity without the need for language from the prosecutor’s office. David Dietrich, in some apparent concern, noted, “If you think that audio recordings are important, we can respond. We [Planning Commission staff] have not recorded in more than twenty years.”

Commissioner Claypool noted, “Recordings need to be supported.” Cathy Cotman added, “I think it’s important. Our zoning and trustee meetings in Chester are recorded.”

Tom Jones asked, “Are recorded Commissioner meetings archived?” Claypool noted, “I think so.” Lennon added, “Yes.” There was no further elaboration or answer to Jones’ question.

Almost immediately Commissioner Spidalieri made an additional comment unrelated to the previous discussion. “We took out the cameras this past year. There are issues that can be construed. There is always room for criticism. What the people of Geauga County want is not what Cuyahoga County wants. Sometimes you have to hold it together. If you’re going to record planning commission meetings, I’m not coming.” This was an apparent reference to Spidalieri’s statement and follow-through that he would not be attending Geauga County Commissioner meetings.

The issue of audio recording soon resurfaced. Claypool noted, “Recording is my way of keeping track.” Mrs. Cotman noted, “ Audio recordings allow the public to be informed.” Mr. Jones elaborated, “If I want to review, I need the audio to help me remember. I don’t think recordings are necessary, but they are useful.”

Spidalieri spoke up again. “Just one other thing,” he said. “To be honest, we don’t have to take any public comment or questions unless it’s a public hearing [the July 25 meeting of the Planning Commission was a public hearing intended to permit elected officials and residents of all sixteen townships and Middlefield to comment] Sometimes we just want to be a public-based board. By law, it’s not that important. You could beat that horse to death.”

Catarina Cocca: “Here’s my take. We specifically requested a legal opinion. Having a recording used by several members of the Planning Commission, then that recording could fall into a public document. Our legal representative suggested that any recording could add a layer of complexity. It is my opinion not to have official recording, but that doesn’t stop anyone from recording.”

County employee, Linda Burhenne, appeared at 8:17 AM to speak to the Planning Commission regarding county retention of records. “Revised Code has a retention policy, which falls under the general county plan. Notes, video, and audio are retained until written notes can be made. Personal recording is no public record.”

Commissioner Timothy Lennon expanded. “There are different levels of transcripts. I don’t think we need word-for-word transcripts. I don’t think it’s necessary to tape record. If you want to say that [Planning Commission meeting] minutes need to be more detailed, I’m okay with that.”

Commissioner Claypool followed up. “Sometimes these minutes are not accurate. They don’t reflect the words or intentions. It’s to insure accuracy.”

Mrs. Cotman responded, “I am opposed to the rule that Planning Commission meetings cannot be recorded.”

Commissioner Lennon added, “Do we want to include more detail in the minutes?”

At this point, 8:25 AM, Linda Burhenne left the meeting, and the Planning Commission discussed the agenda item entitled Model Zoning Resolution. Gary Enola noted, “This has been on the agenda for several meetings. Would it make sense to divide up the Model Township Zoning Resolution and taking responsibility for a particular section?”

Commissioner Claypool responded. “The gist of the conversation a year ago was to start to take a look at the model zoning.”

Planning Director, David Dietrich, spoke. “May I say something? A Planning Commission subcommittee to report on model zoning is subject to the Open Meetings Act [ORC 122.21]. They will be open public meetings. If you appoint a subcommittee, you will be subject to the Open Meetings Act. I happened to write the model zoning. This has all been reviewed by the Prosecutor’s Office.”

Mr. Spidalieri spoke again. “I don’t think our role is to dictate to the townships,” he noted. “I feel you are treading into an area that is regulated by trustees. . .Is this really our problem? . . .At the end of the day, we are overstepping our bounds.”

Catarina Cocca had a response. “The Planning Commission has the authority to review. Does this model zoning resolution represent the most current and best model? Is it current?”

Mrs Cotman noted, “We on the Planning Commission have had questions that have come up with township amendments. This board is a whole new group of people.”

David Dietrich continued his earlier train of thought. “I first wrote this in 1984. We’ve never done anything without the prosecutors. I don’t know of any challenges that have resulted from loss.”

Mr. Spidalieri continued, “Why would we not want input from elected officials? If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. It’s a big undertaking. We’ll have to comply with the assistant prosecutors and notify the townships of all changes. Where do we go?”

David Dietrich added, “We already send legal judgments to townships. I keep the townships up to date. I’ve been doing this for forty years. I worked with Forrest Burt and Prosecutor Craig Albert.”

The time was 8:55 AM. Acting Chairman Cocca directed that the topic be tabled in anticipation of the County Commissioner meeting starting at 9 AM.

Published Saturday, September 9, 2017

Although public discussions involving the Geauga County Planning Commission anticipated that the US Geological Survey contract would be open to negotiation until the end of September, Geauga County Commissioners noted that USGS insisted that the new contract be enacted on September 8, one day after Commissioners unanimously approved Option 2. Option 2, Item 6 on the September 7, 2017,
Commissioners meeting, noted that “[t]he Planning Commission is requesting the Board approve the choice of US Geological Survey, Option 2: Quarterly Monitoring in Middlefield Township and Measurements once a year elsewhere and budget for Federal Fiscal Year 2018 (October 1. 2017 through September 30, 2018) in the amount of $21, 500.00.”

For those who have been following the progress of development by the Geauga County Planning Commission, there should be ample memory that Geauga County’s original arrangement with USGS t would have required about $25,900 in county-paid funds for USGS to monitor 30+ water wells in the county multiple times per year at a cost of about $26,000. An alternate plan sought by a group of planning commissioners intended to reduce dependence on USGS in 2018 and years following.

The next meeting of the Geauga Planning Commission will be Tuesday, September 12, 2017.

Published Thursday, August 31, 2017

Auburn Township Fiscal Officer Fred May learned at the Geauga County Budget Commission meeting on August 22, 2017, at 9 AM. that Auburn Township was to receive about $384,000 less from the Geauga County Auditor than Mr. May had anticipated with his 2018 fiscal budget. Beverly Sustar of the Auditor’s Office explained that the gross difference in funds to be received was because of “doubled-up rollback.” Mr. May was further instructed that he would “need to fix that [the Auburn Township budget] before the end of the year. . . They[Auburn Township Trustees] will need to reduce their appropriations by January 1 [2018].” Geauga County Treasurer Christopher Hitchcock noted that balances at year-end did not match balances for January 1. Hitchcock noted that such a practice was “a fraud alert. . . to the State Auditor . . . and must stop.”

It should be noted that Fred May is in an interesting position as Auburn Fiscal Officer based on his own personal history. On November 15, 2012, while serving as the Fiscal Officer, a collection agency filed suit against May in Geauga County Common Pleas Court because Mr. May had not paid off his student loan, apparently for law school. This student loan, according to the original application was to come due ten years after the student loan had been approved. According to the collection agency filing Case 12M001143, Mr. May owed $59,706.15 as a result of accrued interest due. When Mr. May did not respond to the summons, the collections agency filed a motion for default judgment on February 14, 2013. By December 5, 2013, the plaintiff in the case filed a motion to garnish Mr. May’s income as Auburn Township Fiscal Officer. On January 31, 2014, Fredrick May, according to a notice of the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Ohio, filed for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. As a result of this action, enforcement of garnishment of Fred May’s income as Auburn Fiscal Officer was stayed. This writer understands that said bankruptcy stays in effect for a period of seven years. It would thus appear that Fred May will again become collectible for his student loan debt in early 2021 because student loans by current law are not forgiven.

Does it strike readers as alarming that a fiscal officer who miscalculated so as to reduce Auburn Township funding for 2018 by $384,000 has a history of personal indebtedness?

By Tracey Read, The News-Herald
Posted: 08/29/17, 5:45 PM EDT

Two Lake County residents are claiming Painesville city officials violated Ohio Sunshine Laws by holding secret community task force meetings about a controversial immigration policy.

Kirtland resident Arzella Melnyk and James Weber of Painesville filed a complaint Aug. 29 in Lake County Common Pleas Court accusing City Manager Monica Irelan and City Council President Paul

Hach (Left), Irelan (Right)
Hach of illegally closing task force meetings to the public.

On June 19, Irelan announced at council’s regular meeting that a task force had been formed to review the recently enacted Painesville Police Policy 413.

Lake County Jail officials used to report suspects of being undocumented to U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, but then delegated that responsibility to individual police departments.

Painesville police then created a policy that details guidelines for officers after they arrest suspects for violent crimes, drug offenses or gang activity.

After the department’s new policy was publicly criticized as being insensitive and hostile, a task force was created that included residents, representatives of the city and police officers, plus religious, immigration and Latino organization leaders.

According to the lawsuit filed by attorney Matthew J. D. Lynch:

• The task force held a secret meeting June 29 at Harvey High School in Painesville.

• On July 5, Weber was told by email that the task force meetings “are not open to the public.”

• On July 31, the task force held a secret meeting at St. Mary’s Parish.

• Any actions taken by the task force at its meetings is in violation of law under the Ohio Revised Code.

Melnyk and Weber are seeking an injunction to stop the task force from continuing “to meet in secret.”

The plaintiffs are also asking for unspecified monetary damages plus attorney fees and expenses.

Irelan, Hach and City Law Director Joseph Gurley did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The case is assigned to Judge John P. O’Donnell.

AUGUST 22, 2017, AT 8:40 A.M.

Published Saturday, August 26, 2017

Geauga County budget hearings for all county and local governmental entities began at 8:30 A.M on the morning of August 22, 2017, with only one member of the Budget Commission present: County Auditor Frank Gliha. Ron Leyde from the Auditor’s Office phoned both the County Treasurer’s office and the Prosecutor’s Office in search of Chris Hitchcock and Jim Flaiz, respectively. Within five minutes, the Chief Deputy Auditor, but not Hitchcock, and Prosecutor Jim Flaiz appeared to complete the three-member Budget Commission team. Second on the agenda at 8:40 A.M. was the Geauga County Public Library, represented by Library Director, Ed Worso, and Lisa Havlin, the Library Treasurer.

Almost immediately Auditor Gliha noted that as a result of the 2017 re-evaluation, ”based on the $240,000 average evaluation [of property] in Geauga County, the average cost of the [.5 Geauga County Library levy on the November 2017 ballot] is $37.” This statement is in direct contrast to a recent report by Director Worso that the average cost to a taxpayer of the levy will be $16. It will be remembered that at a recent Geauga County Commissioners meeting, one Commissioner similarly noted that Worso and his committee had seriously under-reported the cost of the .5 mill levy.

Gliha was followed by Jim Flaiz’s comment: “You’re going out for this bond issue, which is controversial to put it mildly. Additionally, he accused Worso and Havlin of “dishonest reporting of balances” and “way under reporting your ending balances. You’re sitting on more than $2 million than you reported you had.” At one point when Havlin expressed disapproval of “dishonest reporting,” Flaiz quickly added, “Gross mismanagement, then?”

Treasurer Havlin, in apparent defense of the Library, reported, in response to Gliha’s retort about “a lot of money,” that “$1.8 million is not too high a balance in the General Fund. . .I can’t account for $597,000.”

Gliha continued, “Sooner or later you have to take responsibility [Worso had just noted that the previous library board had been responsible for reporting errors to the Budget Commission]. Somewhere in 2014 you said you were going to wind up with $1.8 million, but you wound up with more than $2.4 million. In 2016 in the General Fund they said they’d have $600,000 , and they ended up with $2.5 million.”

Flaiz had more condemnation. “When I pay my taxes, the very least I expect is that the numbers are reported accurately. When we see $2 million gaps, that’s a huge issue.”

In the end, after all the criticism from Flaiz and Gliha, all three members, including the Geauga County Treasurer’s Office, voted to approve the 2018 Geauga County Library budget. The Budget Commission approved $8,371,837 to the General Fund and $500,000 for the Building and Repair Fund. The Library is currently receiving the proceeds from the collection of a 2 mill levy passed by Geauga voters just a few years ago. The Auditor’s office has certified a $24,000,000 bond levy “for the purpose of constructing and improving facilities” which “would require 0.50 mills annually for 30 years.” This issue will appear on the November 7, 2017, Geauga County ballot.

Published August 15, 2017
Please note the August 17th update in the box below.
We received the following communication from one of the Commissioners.

"Guys…. I read your article. It is mostly accurate. One key point was left out. The Ohio law mandates that the commissioners say yes to putting this issue on the ballot to give our public the chance to vote on it. If we had voted no there would have been a court action, we would have lost, and we would have been subject to fines, attorney fees and penalitys. Because the law is written to say the "taxing authority SHALL" say yes. They tied our hands….. We could have voted no but it would have been a violation of the law.

That is an important part

At the August 8, 2017, Geauga Commissioner Meeting, Ed Worso, Director of the Geauga County Public Library, and several library board members and supporters showed up after having been told on August 1 that the County Commissioners were delaying action to approve the .5 mill bond levy. Going into executive session prior to discussing the ballot issue with Worso and the library board, Commissioners met with Assistant Prosecutor Laura LaChapelle, about the pros and cons of not approving the placing of the library bond issue on the November 7 Geauga County ballot. According to Ohio Revised Code, the Commissioners’ only option is to approve the levy language of an upcoming ballot issue; voting to prohibit the issue from appearing on the ballot constitutes a violation of ORC, and the County Library Board of Directors had already communicated its intention of filing suit against the Commissioners if the issue did not appear on the November ballot. It was evident that discussions with LaChapelle dissuaded against the failure of the motion. In the end, the measure passed with two Commissioners—Claypool and Lennon—expressing extreme disapproval of the measure and one Commissioner, Ralph Spidalieri, voting to prohibit the placement of the issue on the November ballot. Spidalieri made the unlikely comparison of the levy with the December 1955 incident wherein black citizen Rosa Parks refused to relinquish her seat on a bus to a white man. Spidalieri noted that the said incident ‘changed the course of history.” For many in attendance, including this writer, that analogy was not logically developed.

Library Director Ed Worso and library board member, Ray Randelli, stepped forward “to answer questions.” When Commissioner Claypool asked, “What is our role [in this matter], Randelli responded, “Yours is administrative.” Claypool countered, “You kind of dodged the question. Why did Ohio Revised Code put us in this role?”

Randelli confidently responded, “I believe you don’t have any discretion. Under the statute, we believe it is your duty to pass it [the inclusion of the .5 mill levy on the November 2017 ballot].”

Claypool threw the answer back. “Our obligation is to the citizens of Geauga County. We have a fiduciary duty. We can say no. It is an option as people of integrity. The library buildings are all in good shape. If the buildings are all in good condition, you have two mills [from a previous levy passed about five years ago] [to make repairs]. It looks like you have $24 million to cover everything you want to do. So why do you want/need a bond levy?|”

In response to Worso’s answer of “This is paid for by Geauga residents,” Claypool shot back, “You didn’t answer my question. You don’t need this bond to accomplish your construction. Your project costs $500 per square foot.

Defending himself, Worso noted,” Every building in the last three years, according to our construction manager, is $500 per square foot.”

Commissioner Lennon, doing some quick calculation, noted, “ A 30,000 squae foot building [at $500 per square foot] equals $14.5 million. With your current budget, incremental improvements, especially in Thompson, could have been started years ago. The total amount you are asking for is $45 million plus interest. Who is pushing this? We better have a pretty good idea that you have strong backing.”

Randelli: “We have been talking about increasing the size of the building in Bainbridge for a long time. The building in Bainbridge is seriously undersized. We hired consultants. We get a lot of feedback about lack of space [in the Bainbridge library building]. One of the opinions was to borrow against our assets. Over the last twenty years there have been cuts by the state. . . I want to have the best library.”

Claypool: “Some of the things we have heard is overwhelming concern and opposition, especially by Cardinal School residents. Nowhere does your stuff mention $24 million or $45 million. You guys have kind of misled the public. You have fattened the turkey. The average home is $200,000, not $100,000. This is a 30-year commitment. Notre Dame School just shut down its library.”

Lennon: “The reason for postponing the acceptance of the levy. . . we owe it to the taxpayers. I’m not looking to create a legal bill with the library board [in response to an executive session called by the commissioners when the library board of directors announced legal action if the .5 mill levy issue did not appear on the November 7, 2017, ballot]. We are looking to save tax dollars. A recent article was not an apology [from Tim Lennon to library board member]. . .You have a long way to go to convince me on this project. I don’t like being boxed in a corner. Our duty, by Ohio law, is that we shall approve this to be on the ballot. . .You need to have a lot of public consideration before the issue goes on the ballot. Work within your budget.”

Claypool: “You haven’t said anything that convinces me you need the money. There are all kinds of things you can do [to raise funds]. I want to vote no on this. As you are there at your town halls [to explain the levy to taxpayers], I will be there.”

Lennon: “I know how libraries were funded. How are the people of West Geauga, Cardinal, or Middlefield school districts going to benefit from this levy? Are you going to relieve those people?”

Randelli: “I’m getting emotional. I’m not compensated [for my services on the library board].”

Lennon: “Bainbridge voters have just said no.”

Worso: “It will never be cheaper to build [a new library].”

Claypool: “If I see $500 per square foot but you are telling people it will cost $16 per $100,000. . . In Thompson there are real struggles to support the school system. What is the closest library to Thompson?

Worso: “Madison.”

Lennon: “I am in opposition to strapping the county with debt. The population of this county has stabilized. You should be able to raise donations. . . The issue is to put this issue on the ballot. I am not endorsing this, but I hesitantly vote yes. I am going to stress that you inform the public better than you have informed this board.”

For the very first time during the discussion, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri spoke. “Rosa Parks—December 1, 1955. Today I reflect on Rosa Parks and I am voting no. You have not explored all the options thoroughly. Never have we explored an expansion of the library. The only thing that has come close has been the bike trails in Chardon. We have a responsibility to the taxpayers. People are struggling and struggling. No is the right answer. Don’t ask me a question that you don’t want to hear the answer to.”

Claypool: “I want to vote with Ralph in the worst way. I think the people of this county will shoot this issue down.”

Lennon: “Our legal counsel has advised us of the legal issue.”

Claypool: “We will be giving our legislators a call. This is a bad levy, not well-thought out. But I will vote yes.”

Spidalieri: “I am the weakest of the three. I don’t have that strength. I’m going to say no.”

At approximately 11:15, the motion to put the .5 mill bond levy for the Geauga County Library passed 2-1, with the expectation that the issue would be placed on the November 7, 2017, Geauga County Ballot by the Geauga County Board of Elections by the absolute deadline of Wednesday, August 9. Voters will recall that within the last several years the Geauga County Public Library asked for a 2-mill levy which voters generously approved.

Published Thursday, August 10, 2017

The regular August meeting of the Geauga County Planning Commission commenced promptly at 7:30 AM with four members absent but a quorum present. By 7:45 two more members were in attendance, with only Ralph Spidalieri and Tracey Engle not present. During discussion of the minutes from the July 11 and July 25 meetings, member Tom Jones noted incompleteness of the July 25 minutes, indicating that he did not recognize the content of that meeting as presented in those minutes. These comments were quickly followed by recommendations from Cathy Cotman and Commissioner Claypool that Planning Commission meetings be audio-recorded for accuracy in spite of recent written remarks by Assistant Prosecutor Susan Wieland advising against any recording for the purposes of transparency. Recurring monthly expenditures, including a payment to Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation, were approved with Bob Rogish (a member of GCSWC) abstaining.

The first item of new business was consideration of Newbury Township’s zoning amendment prohibiting medical marijuana. Since November 2016 this zoning has been implemented by twelve of Geauga County’s sixteen townships. Per Dave Dietrich’s explanation, only Chardon, Munson, Parkman, and Huntsburg have no such zoning at this writing. With virtually no discussion, the Newbury amendment was approved unanimously by 7:45 AM.

The second item of new business, the USGS contract discussed at the special Planning Commission meeting of July 25 brought forth a great deal of discussion. By 7:45 Bainbridge Trustee, Kristina O’Brien, appeared as an observer to the events. She and Bainbridge Trustee, Jeff Markley, had attended
the July 25 meeting. The discussion opened with a discussion about GE119, a water well north of Middlefield Village that is monitored by the USGS contract. The USGS published report of 2016, made available by USGS to local and county officials and available online at www.usgs.org, noted the recommendations to undertake further studies of GE119, whose depth has fallen ten feet in recent years. USGS hydrologist Martha Jagucki noted during the July 25 special meeting that USGS had notified Middlefield Village elected officials of the declining depth; to date Middlefield officials have not acted on that information. Planning Commission members noted that there is no documentation to determine whether the drop in depth has any overall significance, either to Middlefield Village or to Geauga County.

As some may recall, the July 25, 2017, Planning Commission meeting identified three options offered to Geauga County. The first was “business as usual” with USGS monitoring 32 wells four times per year at a cost of $35,000. The second was the monitoring of 31 wells once per year, and the third option was for Geauga County offices to monitor wells and share the information with USGS, the United States Geological Service of the Department of the Interior, for a contract whose cost is as of yet not negotiated. The Planning Commission reviewed events surrounding the 2016-2017 contract, which was renewed without exploration of other monitoring resources because of lack of adequate time. The deadline on the coming contract is September 8, only a month away, although USGS hydrologist, Martha Jagucki stated at the July 25 special meeting of the Planning Commission that USGS equipment would not be removed until September 30.

The alternative to those three options, hammered out in separate meeting by Planning Commission members Charlie Stevens, Bob Rogish, and Cathy Cotman, would be similar to the second option with some modification. This plan would test “stable” wells once each April. “Stable” describes wells whose depth has remained consistent over the length of USGS contracts with Geauga County (begun in 1994). According to this plan, any well with less than three years of documentation by USGS would be eliminated from the database. Then, during the next twelve months, township boards of trustees and zoning commissions would be required to report back to the Planning Commission how they had used the water data during the USGS contract year to make it possible for USGS to define “normal” and “abnormal” well depths for wells in the database. Additionally, USGS would coordinate the data in ways it currently does not. Currently much of the existent water data is held by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Ultimately, the Planning Commission should be the entity that monitors all data, not USGS. The two-hour meeting between Stevens, Rogish, and Cotman resulted in Stevens’ motion for the Planning Commission to submit a modified plan to USGS on or before September 8 to have USGS monitor 31 wells manually once each April

Several Planning Commission members noted that they had engaged in additional conversations after the July 25 meeting with Martha Jagucki. One Planning Commission member suggested the monitoring only of wells whose depths were declining. Another member suggested that USGS
data is not being utilized for any purpose. Another asked how water quality, not water depth, could be addressed. Member Claypool responded that whatever water quality becomes available to the Planning Commission should be shared with township trustees, since County Commissioners have no authority to be involved in any issues concerning townships. Further, Claypool identified two issues with regard to monitoring wells in the county: 1) permission to record water depth data and 2) the significance or insignificance of one year of USGS data if the Planning Commission chose not to renew the USGS contract. The 32nd well is actually monitored by EPA, regardless of USGS’ involvement.

At one point in the discussion, Mr. Claypool addressed Bainbridge Trustee, Kristina O'Brien. “If we
[Commissioners/Planning Commission] send you the information, what will you do [with it] in Bainbridge?” Mrs. O’Brien responded, “If there is a problem. What plan would you put in place? I need to know a replacement plan for USGS. I am concerned about what happens September 8.”
Claypool responded, “Water Department employees can monitor during regular information.” Charlie Stevens interjected, “’Business as Usual’ means four times a year monitoring.”

Commissioner Lennon observed,: We are up against a wall again. This has turned into a political football, In my mind, our back is up against the wall. We either do it or we don’t. Do I pull the plug [on the USGS contract] as a business?”

Claypool: “The third option is to pull the plug but have a replacement plan.”

Chester Miller, a member of the Planning Commission living in Middlefield Township noted, “If the wells drop ten feet in Middlefield, no one is going to do anything about it.”

Lennon: “This [the USGS contract] was a good question 25 years ago. I think this thing has run its course and is redundant information. We have Bob Weisdeck [Geauga County Health Director], Gerry Morgan [Geauga County Director of Water Resources], and the township trustees. I want a replacement plan before pulling the plug. . .What does Bainbridge do [about its water]”?

Kristina O’Brien: “Our water is terrible. My concern if we drop the monitoring. . .what is the replacement?”

Lennon: “If this thing had value, it would be the deal of the century. What is it worth?”

Charlie Stevens: “We are a little afraid to stop, but the current level of monitoring does not make sense. If by next year, we are too lazy to intervene, then pull the plug on USGS.”

Lennon: “What is Jagucki’s opinion about one time per year? The value of this information is far more important to USGS than to us.”

Charlie Stevens: “I applaud Skip [Claypool] on his question. It is disgusting that we have spent so much money already.”

Claypool: “At some point in time you have all the data you need. USGS reports verify this.”
“I’ll reach out to Martha. We have ¾ month left. If not running out of water is the core objective, how do we do it?” He noted he was “okay with the new plan.”

Cathy Cotman: “The first step is to tell USGS to reduce monitoring. . .What is the finished product we give to USGS?”

Charlie Stevens: “The next step is for this commission to make a motion. It is close to option 2, manual measurement of 31 wells once per year. We need to add that Geauga County is to manage all relations with the property owners. I’m going to make a motion that the commission continue the USGS agreement with conditions of one measurement per year in April.”

Cathy Cotman seconded the motion. The vote was unanimous except for Thomas Jones, who abstained. As a result of the vote, the Planning Commission also made a motion to write a letter to the Geauga County Commissioners, asking how trustees will be using the data, how the information obtained by the USGS contract is relevant to the trustees, and how the Planning Commission will manage all the relationships. The vote, with Claypool and Lennon both gone to preside over the 9 AM County Commissioners meeting, was a unanimous yes. The Planning Commission meeting adjourned at 9:10 AM.

Published Friday, July 28, 2017

Following Commissioner Spidalieri’s invitation at both a recent July Commissioner meeting and
and the quarterly dinner meeting of the Geauga County Township Association, the July 25 Geauga Planning Commission meeting attracted fewer than 25 residents and several news reporters. Several were trustees of Geauga townships and at least one was a councilman in Middlefield Village. Although the majority of the two hour meeting was a presentation by Martha Jagucki, longtime hydrologist with the US Geological Survey (a division of the US Department of the Interior), there was a fifteen – minute question and answer period that attracted much thoughtful interaction among members of the Planning Commission, Planning Director David Dietrich and members of the audience.

Planning Commission President Charlie Stevens noted that the purpose of the special meeting of the Planning Commission was to provide reliable information “needed to understand the nation’s water resources.” Although the 2017-2018 contract with a September 30 deadline for signing is $35,400, Geauga County’s portion would be $23,600 with the USGS providing $11,800 as a subsidy. From the outset it was made clear to all present that USGS “cannot contribute unless there is local funding.” Although the contract date is September 8, 2017, USGS will not remove its equipment until September 30.

Martha Jagucki noted that the network between USGS and Geauga County was established in 1996 to determine which changes in water levels represent consistent, long-term trends caused by human activity.” She added, “We [USGS] are looking at groundwater activity, not quality.” Looking back at the time period, a major piece of litigation, Ketchel v. Bainbridge, established that large-lot zoning, such as three-acre zoning, required ample groundwater to support. This litigation of the early 1990s was followed by substantial growth of the western corridor of Geauga County as route 422 provided an exit at route 306 near Bainbridge Road and encouraged substantial residential growth.

Ms Jagucki noted the presence of four different aquifers and the monitoring of 32 wells, including 25 private wells that are measured four times per year manually. She early referenced the well identified as GE 352 in Middlefield, whose water levels declined from 1986 to 1994 and apparently continues to decline (currently one foot). In addition, GE 119, also located in Middlefield, has fallen 4.6 feet from 1996 to 2016, and GE 147 in Middlefield has declined 7.9 feet in the period 1995-2015. “Any decline is thought to result from population activity," said Jagucki. In addition, according to Jagucki, water levels in seven of 37 wells have declined due to an increase in nearby water use.” Many readers will recall that Middlefield Township has no zoning regulation, with the result that many commercial and industrial ventures exist alongside residential properties of varying sizes. Unrelated to the dropping levels in Middlefield is GE 351 in Chester, whose water levels have fallen three feet in the period 2011-2017.

Ms. Jagucki offered three possible options for action by Geauga County Commissioners. The first, preferred by USGS, is "business as usual," for $35,400. The second course of action is the manual measurement of 31 wells once per year for a cost of $15,000 (Geauga County share: $10,000). The third option would be for Geauga County itself to furnish vital data to the USGS with no cost assessed to Geauga County.

The conclusion of Ms. Jagucki’s presentation resulted in immediate input from others in attendance. Commissioner Claypool asserted, “There is no quality aspect… How much money are we spending on data we are not using?” Although Jagucki noted that “groundwater quality doesn’t change that fast,” Claypool responded that the data is pretty stable except for the wells in Middlefield, which the county is not authorized to regulate.

Commissioner Timothy Lennon asked, “What’s the reason why Geauga monitors so many wells?” At that point Planning Director Dietrich went into significant detail about the lengthy litigation faced by Bainbridge Township in Ketchel v. Bainbridge, seeming to imply that the 1991 Ketchel substantiated the 1996 establishment of the Geauga-USGS contracts. That conclusion would appear to be illogical, given the chronology of events. Ms. Jagucki responded, “If you know that there will not be development, you don’t need to monitor.” Lennon asked another question: “How many counties are monitoring like Geauga?” Jagucki responded, “None.”

Geauga Health Commissioner, Bob Weisdeck, followed up with a presentation of his own, which stressed the importance of well logs on every residential well. These logs are public information but are maintained by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. He asserted that the information from residential wells is public information at Geauga County’s Real Link. Planning Director Dietrich volunteered that he uses Geauga County Board of Health data about water resources in the county.

When Planning Commission President Stevens asked Martha Jagucki, “Do you think, Martha, that zoning has stabilized groundwater?, her response of “I can’t comment,” appeared to be an invocation of the Fifth Amendment. When Commissioner Claypool offered, “Townships don’t have skin in the game,” Middlefield Village Councilman Ronald Wiech, the Democratic candidate for Commissioner in 2013, responded that every taxpayer in the county has “skin in the game” because they send tax funds to Geauga County.

In response to Lennon’s query about whether Middlefield wells are an anomaly, Jagucki responded, “In Middlefield’s case, you need more detail.” Shortly thereafter, Jagucki acknowledged that Carlisle (a bankrupt company in Middlefield that pumped pollutants into one Middlefield well) may be part of the problem.”

When Lennon questioned whether the Geauga County Township Association, composed of the trustees and fiscal officers of all sixteen townships, could finance well-monitoring within their own borders, a response from the audience noted that the GCTA had no standing to conduct business or sign contracts. Nevertheless, GCTA on the evening of July 12, 2017, voted unanimously to change their charter to become a "benevolent" organization capable of providing funds for projects of their choice, like the Foundation for Geauga Parks.

The meeting adjourned on a thoughtful, civil note at exactly 9 P.M. after President Stevens noted his concern that the meeting had “disseminated information accurately to townships.” It is likely that the Geauga County - USGS contract will come before the Geauga County Planning Commission, which includes the three county commissioners, at the Planning Commission’s next regular meeting of September 8, 2017, at 7:30 A.M., to be followed at 9 A.M. by the County Commissioners’ meeting.

Published Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Geauga County Administrator, David Lair, reported at the July 25, 2017, Geauga County
Commissioner meeting on activities related to the County Commissioners’ interest in new county facilities to replace those in the City of Chardon.

Although there originally were four firms vying to advise the Commissioners on a feasibility study regarding replacement facilities, the Commissioners narrowed the field down to K2M and Richard L Bowen Associates. Both firms received glowing reviews from their references.

Said Commissioner Walter Claypool: “This is a big political step. There will be people who will cast stones at us for spending money.” Nevertheless, “this is really about the future.”

Commissioner Tim Lennon added, “This is a good time to take inventory.”

Richard L. Bowen Associates reportedly will receive $35,000 to conduct the feasibility study into replacement Geauga County facilities.

Published July 17, 2017

Katherine Blazek, who was successful in constructing and installing a rain barrel in each of two
Auburn cemeteries, was the articulate center of attention at the July 17, 2017, township trustee meeting. Katherine gifted the township trustees with two copies of her publication, “Maintaining Rain Barrels.” She noted her desire to provide Kenston School District and the library in Bainbridge with copies of the same document. Citing one of the questions in her upcoming exit interview with a Girl Scouts panel, Katherine stressed her need to “insure that the barrels be maintained” by some member(s) of the township administration. She was assured that the Auburn Township Service Department would assume that role on a continuing basis.

Congratulations to Girl Scout Katherine Blazek for completion of her service project and for demonstration of remarkable poise and self-confidence.

Published Saturday, June 17, 2017

According to Chardon Municipal Court records, Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney registered for her 3-day Driver Intervention Program (DIP) course at Columbro Consultation Services, a company Matheny trafic stoplocated in Westlake, Ohio. Court records indicate that Matheney was to complete the program offered at Best Value Inn on Brookpark Road/Airport West during May 18-20. The most current information available under the heading of DIP indicates that the services offered by CCS at $385 are the most costly in the Cleveland area. Matheney’s license remains suspended for a year. No other information is currently available at this time.

The following is from Columbro Consultation Services website: “Ohio’s Driver Intervention Program (DIP) is an alternative to the mandatory three-day jail term that first-time offenders convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs may attend at the court’s discretion. Each DIP includes traffic safety education on alcohol and other drug abuse and addiction, and small group discussions. DIPs are a two- or three-day process of education and screening, and may also include a referral for a complete alcohol and other drug assessment.”

“Ohio’s DIP curriculum includes the following information:
• Physical, psychological and social consequences of alcohol and other drug use
• Physiological and psychological effects of alcohol and other drugs on driving performance
• Blood alcohol content (BAC), drugs and the definition of legal impairment
• Symptoms of alcohol and other drug abuse
• The progressive nature of alcohol and other drug dependence
• Levels of license suspension and revocation
• Fines and levels of incarceration
• Treatment and self-help resources for alcohol and other drug addiction”

Published Friday, June 2, 2017

Slightly more than three years ago the issue of financial management of the Chester Township Park District raised in an anonymous letter resulted in a series of legal actions initiated by the Geauga County Probate Court and resulted in two trips to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals and one trip to the Ohio Supreme Court. Although the judgment by the Ohio Supreme Court in 2016 resulted in a denial of a writ of prohibition because that court noted that the Geauga County Probate Court “does not patently and unambiguously lack jurisdiction, the late May 2017 opinion by the Eleventh District Court of Appeals sustained two alleged judicial errors. “The central question, as framed by the parties, is whether the probate court maintained jurisdiction over the Trustees and the township [Chester] as a political entity either through the exercise of its plenary power to enforce the terms of the 1984 order creating the Park District or, otherwise, through the probate court’s continuing jurisdiction over the Park District as provided in R.C. Chapter 1545.” (page 1, Opinion, 2016-G-0092). As early as page 3 of the Eleventh District’s decision, visiting Justice, Sean C. Gallagher of the Eighth District Court of Appeals opines, “the probate court exceeded its jurisdiction by declaring portions of an arm’s-length agreement entered under R.C. 1545.14 to be invalid and imposing the costs of the master commissioner appointed to review the Commissioners’ conduct against the unrelated political entity.”

Determining that the township must bear 75% of the $40,000 cost of the master commissioner’s investigatory report about the Chester Township Park Board District, “[t]he fees were imposed against the township under the belief that the probate court has a plenary power to prevent others from interfering with the Park District’s purposes under R.C. 2101.24C and as a result, the court could order any such party to pay the costs of investigating the Park District’s operations despite the fact that those parties had no control over the Park District’s operational management. Further, the probate court held that the creation of the Park District meant that all the township’s lands used for township park purposes, regardless of the record ownership, are under the jurisdiction of the Park Board at the expense of the title owner’s property rights. . .” (page 13)

“R.C. 2101.24 is silent with respect to the probate court’s jurisdiction over park districts. Instead, R.C. 2101.24(A)(2) provides that probate courts have jurisdiction if another section of the Revised Code expressly confers jurisdiction over that subject matter upon the probate court . . . A probate court’s jurisdiction over a park district is, therefore, solely governed by R.C. Chapter 1545. . .

1) to appoint the park district’s board of commissioners

2) to expand the board to five members upon the park district’s request

3) to remove any commissioners after providing a hearing and no less than 10 days; notice of the intent to do so

4) to approve the park district's acceptance of donations of money or property

5) to approve the sale of lands if the lands are within the county of the probate court’s territorial jurisdiction

6) to approve the annexation of any territory within the probate court’s territorial jurisdiction

7) to dissolve the park district if the results of a certified vote are presented to the probate court or the park district is inactive for a period of five years (pages 17-18)

In conclusion, Visiting Justice Gallagher, with Visiting Justices William Klatt and Pratrick M. McGrath concurring, concludes,” The probate court exceeded its jurisdiction by imposing the master commissioner’s fees as costs against an unrelated political agency and by considering the validity of a contractual agreement entered between two separate and district political entities. We reverse and vacate the Confirmation Order and June 2016 order.

It is ordered that appellant recover from appellee costs herein taxed. . .

It is ordered that a special mandate be sent to said court to carry this judgment into
execution.” (page 23)

Published May 30, 2017

Just about a month ago the Budget Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives was listening to personal testimony before making final changes to the 2018 Ohio fiscal budget. As a result, House Bill 49, a 62-line designation of Probate Court powers and responsibilities, was removed. Much of the same language is under consideration again as House Bill 218 with content of 72 lines.

HB 218 is missing three lines from HB 49 that delineate probate court duties:
“Issue an order preventing interference with the court’s order creating the park district”

“Impose duties or restrictions on a person or party who interferes with the park district’s purposes as provided by this chapter or the court’s order creating the park district”

HB 218 adds several new lines to the text of HB 49:
“(F) Nothing in this section authorities a probate court to take any action that infringes upon any rights of an individual or organization that are protected by the United States Constitution or the Ohio Constitution.”

“(G) A probate court shall not impede or interfere with the daily operations of a park district created under this chapter or the maintenance of the park district’s property unless such maintenance or operations are in violation of this chapter or the order of the court that created the park district.”

“(H) Any actions taken by the probate court authorized under division (B) (1) or (2) of this section are limited to injunctive relief or a declarative judgment.”

“(I). . . The entity that submits a petition to the probate court for the creation of a park district under this chapter is a party, unless otherwise designated by the court.”

Posted May 30, 2017

The Russell Township Board of Trustees will hold a Special Meeting at 10:00 am on Thursday, June 1, 2017, at the Administration Building, 8501 Kinsman Road, Russell Township.

The purpose of the special session is to discuss and take action regarding the Fagan property, 14601 Caves Road, Russell Township.

Russell Township Board of Trustees

Published Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It is no secret that for several years we attended public meetings nearly every evening of the week. Our primary intention was to learn as much as we could about the civic affairs of Geauga County. Besides, at that period of time when we were engaged in litigation against Auburn Township Trustees and Auburn’s Board of Zoning Appeals, attending civic meetings took our minds off the civic responsibilities that were thrust upon us. As many residents of Geauga County probably know, that three-year litigation resulted in our farm winning its case against Auburn elected and appointed officials and enjoying the right to install our wind turbine.

During that same time period we came to attend trustee township meetings, county park district meetings, and county Republican Party meetings. Until the summer of 2015, we were viewed apparently as mostly harmless. Looking back, we had no problems with former Geauga Republican Party Chairman Ed Ryder or Lake Republican Chairman Dale Fellows.

In the autumn of 2014, Geauga Republican Central Committee members elected Nancy McArthur as their new chairwoman. Very soon thereafter we became aware of a less welcoming and accepting attitude on the part of Republican leadership, Although Mr. Ryder had never objected to our videoing events that news media also were recording, Mrs. McArthur soon started demanding that we let her screen any and all of our videos. We declined to be censored in such a manner.

By summer 2015 the announced format of Central Committee meetings was changing without formally announcing those changes to everyone who enjoyed coming to the Republican meetings. Having formerly attended Geauga Democratic Party meetings without being discriminated against, we found Republican Party actions autocratic. When they appeared to suppress our First Amendment rights, we exercised our rights to litigate against Mrs. McArthur in particular and, as a result, the Geauga County Republican Party. The Geauga Republican Party, while labeling their meetings as public, voted to forbid any videoing of the public content. That kind of response on the part of a partisan party that depends on public funding for its ability to make political statements was/is not conducive to the public understanding.

Upon dismissal by the Geauga Common Pleas Court of our assertions of violation of the Open Meetings Act, we filed an appeal in early 2016 at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals. That action is now at an end, with the announcement by that court on Monday, May 22, 2017, that our claim has been dismissed.

Though disappointed with the current outcome, we are grateful to be considering all outcomes with a view towards inculcating justice in the courts. We expect that we will continue to engage in moral and ethical decision-making and risk-taking when others choose not to do so.. We continue to learn as much as we can about Auburn Township and Geauga County and to encourage outcomes that respect “liberty and justice for all.”

Posted May 16, 2017

Due to an unavoidable scheduling conflict, the Russell Township Board of
Trustees has rescheduled the regular meeting originally set for 5:30 p.m. on
Wednesday, May 17, 2017. The Board meeting will now be held at 7:00 pm
on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in the Russell Township Fire-Rescue Station,
14810 Chillicothe Rd.

The Trustees may discuss any business properly before the Board.

Russell Township Board of Trustees

Published Friday, May 12, 2017

Tie-ins to sewer undertaken by large Geauga parcels have become a big issue in the last year. About this time last year the purchaser of a former Auburn Township golf course drew attention when he became the last approved tie-in at at a reported cost of about $6000 to the McFarland Corners Sewage Plant. This plant serves both Auburn Lakes in Auburn and areas of Bainbridge. The purchaser received approval in a 2-1 vote from Auburn Township Trustees. The dissenter, John Eberly, noted that the approval could lead to serious demands on the existing sewer system if the Auburn parcel was converted to more densely populated residential/commercial uses. The sewer tie-in was approved by County Commissioners without a ripple after Attorney Dale Markowitz appeared on behalf of the property owner.

Also within the past year or so, the Lake LaDue sewerage plant has been updated by Geauga County at considerable expense to include the Troy Oaks area and Great Lakes Cheese, which relocated with tax abatement dollars from Newbury to Troy. The increased capacity is 140,000 gallons of processed sewerage per day by 2018, per Director of Water Resources, Gerard Morgan. Great Lakes Cheese processes about 18,000 gallons; Troy Oaks currently processes 50,000 gallons of sewage per day. Directly across from Great Lakes Cheese is an extensive vacant parcel currently zoned industrial by Troy Township eligible for sewer tie-in connection, per the 208 plan of the Clean Water Act under the EPA and the North East Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

This area of Troy has been zoned for three acre residential since the 1970’s. On the Auburn Township side of Shaw Road residents also enjoy three acre residential zoning and back up to the city of Akron, which has no plans to develop the property contiguous to those residents. Earlier this year the owner and a developer of a 60+acre former farm on the Troy Township side of Shaw Road sought rezoning from three acre residential to manufactured home park to permit sewer tie-ins to the Auburn LaDue Sewer Plant and more than 80 manufactured houses. Recent land use and residential surveys undertaken by Troy trustees have demonstrated strong residential support for three-acre zoning.

Residents gathered at both Auburn Township and Troy Township trustee meetings (May 1 and May 2, respectively) to express their opposition to the project. The majority have been longtime residents who never anticipated the possibility of loss of real-estate value until this possibility of dense land use. In the meantime both set of trustees noted their inability to influence the outcome.

The Geauga County Planning Commission became involved on Tuesday, May 9, 2017, to hear Dale Markowitz and approximately 15 Auburn and Troy residents from Shaw Road. Planning Commission members voted 8-0 to reject the application to rezone the former farm. Tracy Engle, Planning Commission member and Shaw Road resident from Auburn Township, abstained from voting.

The latest report, unconfirmed at this point, is that Markowitz and the developer have withdrawn the request of the amendment. The most recent Troy Township zoning commission meeting is still said to occur on the evening of Monday, May 15, with any future action on the amendment the responsibility of the Troy trustees.

The potential for additional sewer tie-ins as a result of the increased capacity of the Lake LaDue sewage system appears to create increased pressure for dense land-use development. Auburn Township experienced similar pressure and legal contests in the early 1990s until the Auburn Lakes community became a fait accompli.

Published Thursday, May 11, 2017

At the Munson Town Hall meeting of Friday, May 5, 2017, a full house of Geauga residents listened intently to State Senator John Eklund, State Representative Sarah La Tourette, and State
Representative John Patterson. The last question from the audience, which dealt with school testing, evoked a response from moderator Robert Lee, retired Kenston School Superintendent.

Representative Patterson’s answer, which did not directly answer either the question or the clarification from Bob Lee, nevertheless, addressed a very important element for both teachers and students. This writer, a former educator, found the answer both newsworthy and incredibly relevant.

Listen and watch the response from Mr. Patterson.

Published Tuesday, May 9. 2017

Through the efforts of the Geauga County League of Women Voters, State Senator Eklund, State
Representative LaTourette, and State Representative Patterson came together at the Munson Township Hall on Friday, May 5. 2017, to present brief overviews of their responsibilities and achievements in the Ohio Legislature. During the latter part of the two-hour program, former Kenston Superintendent Robert Lee asked the legislators questions composed by members of the audience. The question presented here referenced the elimination of an amendment sponsored by Representative Seitz during Ohio House Finance Committee hearings. Both Representative LaTourette and Patterson sit on that committee. Representative Patterson answered first, followed by Representative LaTourette, and concluded by Senator Eklund.

Published Wednesday, May3, 2017

Per public information request this website has received notification of annual salaries of all Geauga County employees. Because the information takes up more space on the website than we can currently grant, we have decided to publish small segments at a time,

2016 is the latest annual information available. Contents of the entire file are available for a short period of time to those who request it from this website. Send email to auburntownship.org@gmail.com

Top 20

Published May 3, 2017

The Russell Township Board of Trustees has scheduled the following Special Meetings to be held in the Russell Township Administration Building, 8501 Kinsman Road:

9:00 am, Monday, May 8, 2017 – Purpose: a workshop to discuss the Fire 2018 budget, goals, and any other business properly before the Board.

9:00 am, Tuesday, May 9, 2017 – Purpose: a workshop to discuss the Road Department 2018 budget, goals, and any other business properly before the Board; followed by a workshop to discuss the Police Department 2018 budget, goals, and any other business properly before the Board.

9:00 am, Wednesday, May 10, 2017 – Purpose: a workshop to discuss the Zoning Department 2018 budget, goals, and any other business properly before the Board; followed by a workshop to discuss the General Fund 2018 budget and any other business properly before the Board.


Published Friday, April 28, 2017

The 3200+ page Ohio Fiscal Budget Bill is currently before the House of Representatives Finance Committee, whose members include Sarah LaTourette, John Patterson, and Bill Seitz. Earlier this week a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that an amendment from Representative Seitz
from Cincinnati would give additional powers that some have termed “overreach” to Probate Court judges. Oral testimony on segments of the Fiscal Budget Bill were to occur on Wednesday, April 26, and Thursday, April 27. Two who testified against the Seitz amendment were Geauga County Trustee, Kenneth Radtke, Jr., and Geauga County Prosecutor, James Flaiz. Both presentations were followed by questions from several members of the House Finance Committee. Flaiz noted that he believed the amendment as written would not survive any legal contests.

Please take the time to view the videos of both Trustee Radtke and Prosecutor Flaiz. Both
presentations are reasoned, reasonable, and logically, and coherently presented. Take the time to listen to the questions voiced to both presenters. Regardless of your opinion about the issue of granting additional powers to probate court justices, the issue(s) and potential problems that might result from the language of the amendment make it critical that Geauga County residents take the time to understand.

It would seem to be a logical conclusion is that such an amendment is inappropriately presented in the fiscal budget bill. It would obviously be more appropriate to introduce such language as a stand-alone bill. Regardless of when such language might appear, there are serious questions of conflicts with First Amendment rights and responsibilities as well as issues regarding the right of the Judiciary Branch to write and enforce law, as well as interpret it.

Published Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Arrested Saturday, November 19, 2016, reportedly after attending a “legal” BYOB holiday party in Chester, Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney has dragged her “due process” out for nearly six months. Curiously, the majority of DUI arrests heard in Chardon Municipal Court, where Bridey will have her day/days, were disposed of within three months or less after the initial arrest. Bridey will have her “pre-trial” hearing on Monday, May 1, 2017, at 2:30 P.M. in the Chardon Municipal courtroom of Judge Terri Stupica. Visiting Judge Larry Allen will preside.

Matheney, who in 2016, was billed as the chief administrator of the civil division of litigators in Jim Flaiz’s Geauga County Prosecutor Office, was the fifth-highest paid employee of that office in 2016, according to a public information request, at $ 72,007.74. Prosecutor Jim Flaiz received $115,703. Although four lowest-paid employees received incomes of $15,100; $9500; $7500; and $1250. the average income for the 24 employees in the department was about $50,700.

Many may remember that Matheney since 2012 widely sought both appointed legislative office and elected county administrative offices, namely as auditor and probate court judge. She was a 2015 graduate of Geauga Leadership under Robert Faehnle. The program touted several well-known participants, for example, Emerald Award winner Dan McClelland, current Geauga Growth president, Tracy Jemison, several former county commissioners, and multiple township trustees.

A widely-viewed police dash cam video of Matheney’s arrest showed her failing field sobriety tests, being handcuffed in the back of the Bainbridge Police vehicle, and her vehicle being towed. She refused the offer of a breathalyzer test at the Bainbridge Police Station and was witnessed by another driver as weaving erratically. Although Matheney was reportedly absent from employment from the time of her arrest until the first Monday in January 2017, the court docket for her case, 2016 TR C 06683, provides no documentation that her license was suspended for refusal to submit for a breathalyzer.

Pre-trial is Monday, May 1, 2017, at 2:30 P.M. in the courtroom of Judge Terri Stupica.

Published Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Last week when the Geauga County Department of Aging under Director Jessica Boalt attempted to place an advertisement in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in order to solicit Senior Citizen services, a number of questions were raised by the Commissioners regarding the appropriateness of targeting metropolitan Cleveland newsprint readers rather than placing inquiries online to find a more fitting readership with appropriate skills.

Jessica Boalt appeared before the Commissioners on Tuesday, April 18, to explain that the advertisement slated for last week’s Plain Dealer additions could not be pulled in time and therefore appeared, bringing one response from a potential provider of services, Home Instead. She sought approval for placement of a legal notice to solicit bids for home care services offering assistance for Geauga County residents at least sixty years old. Said legal notice is apparently the one appearing on April 12 in the Plain Dealer and scheduled for appearance on Wednesday, April 19, 2017.

The topic brought lively discussion, with Commissioner Claypool questioning whether there might be a better source, such as classified listings in the Yellow Pages. Mrs. Boalt answered that she works very closely with Laura [an apparent reference to Laura Lachapelle in the Geauga Prosecutor’s Office to follow bid procedures that she [Boalt] cannot alter.

Additionally, she presented a request for the Commissioners to approve a Health Services Agreement with the Geauga County Board of Health for health services to adult day service clients and visiting senior citizens for the period of January 1 through December 31, 2017, for $400 per month. Commissioners ultimately approved Mrs. Boalts requests.

Published Tuesday, April 18, 2017

At the April 3, 2017, Auburn Township Trustee meeting, the two attending trustees reported to those in attendance that Bainbridge Trustees Benza, O’Brien, and Markley would be attending the April 17 trustee meeting to present information about efforts to restore the presence of the late Bainbridge Post Office, which has been absent from the scene for at least three years. Apparently, there was a lack of accurate communication. Listed as guests on the agenda for the April 17 Auburn Township meeting, attendees waited in vain for the threesome to make their appearance. The meeting, which began promptly at 7:30 and ended at 8:15, went smoothly with a full schedule of announcements. Nevertheless, there was nothing to be heard from Bainbridge Trustees.

Published Sunday, April 9, 2017

Joseph William Stanziole, another member of Newbury’s Troop 99, is the latest Eagle Scout to be recognized in public session by the Geauga County Commissioners. Joseph completed a special project for the Geauga County Dog Warden by constructing three dog houses for that office and for contributing three truckloads of supplies for rescued dogs. In his humility, Joseph did not seek recognition, but out of gratefulness, the Dog Warden requested on April 4 that the Commissioners extend recognition for Joseph. The Geauga Community is proud of Joseph’s dedication and commitment to service and wishes him much success in all his future endeavors.

Published Tuesday, April 4, 2017

In a ruling on Monday, April 3, 2017, Visiting Judge Larry Allen of Lake County, ruled on an in limine
motion filed by the defense team for Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney on March 15, 2017. Judge Allen overruled all but one issue raised by defense attorney, Kenneth Bossin. According to Judge Allen, the Bainbridge police officer was justified in making the original stop, in performing the field sobriety tests, and in making the arrest of Matheney, who functions in the office of Prosecutor James Flaiz as a civil division supervisor also involved with criminal proceedings, according to her words in 2016. Although Judge Allen allowed the suppression of the HGN (eye movement) test, he has ruled that the next steps in the procedure are a pre-trial and (jury) trial.

Published Thursday, March 30, 2017

Noting that Bainbridge and Chardon City are two areas whose libraries have been outgrown by their residents, the Geauga Library director expressed the intention of placing a half mill levy on the November ballot to make possible construction of at least one new library building. The Library System purchased property in 2014 to facilitate construction of a 20,000-30,000 square foot facility in Bainbridge. Interestingly, the northeast corner of the county (Thompson) has no dedicated library building at all. Another possible location for a new branch library building is near the Jobs and Family Services office on Ravenwood.

Commissioner Spidalieri facilitated the discussion by asking what today’s kids do and where they go. Commissioner Claypool asked if any new library building would be “a field of dreams” or a place where there is a legitimate demand for a library services. The director’s response was that at the Bainbridge Library, there is no tutoring room and there is only one meeting room.

When asked whether the levy would be voted upon by Bainbridge voters only or by everyone in the county, the director noted that it would be a countywide issue. Therefore, readers be aware that there will be at least one levy on the November ballot, more than likely an issue for .5 mill.

Published Friday, March 24, 2017

Mother Nature has caused some delays in the progress of Auburn Township’s newest zoning amendment. First brought to the attention of Geauga’s sixteen townships in November 2016 by Geauga County Prosecutor Flaiz, this zoning amendment is a prohibition against producing marijuana or marijuana products for medicinal purposes, The first townships in Geauga County to submit such a zoning amendment for approval by the Geauga County Planning Commission are Bainbridge, Auburn, and Claridon Townships. Although the vote by the Planning Commission was expected on March 14, widespread predictions of 24 inches of snow resulted in the cancellation of many functions, including the regular March meeting of the Geauga County Planning Commission until Tuesday, March 21.

Initiated by Auburn Township incumbent trustees, the zoning amendment was forwarded to the Planning Commission on February 20, 2017, and received by that body on February 24. A short amendment that identifies Medical Marijuana as Section 3.08 of the Auburn Zoning Resolution, it consists of a definition and a very short prohibition. By definition, Medical Marijuana is “ Marijuana as defined in O.R.C. Section 3796.01(A)(1), that is cultivated, processed, dispensed, tested, possessed,or used for a medical purpose per Section 3795.01(A)(2).” The italicized information, presented on the original amendment, was modified by the Planning Commission to read “Section 3796.01(A)(2).”

The actual language of the amendment listed under Article 3 of the Auburn Zoning Resolution as 3.08 reads, “MEDICAL MARIJUANA PROHIBITION: In all zoning districts medical marijuana cultivators, processors, or retail dispensaries shall be prohibited in accordance with O.R.C Section 519.12.” Again, the italicized language represents a typographical error that the Planning Commission modified to read, “ORC Section 519.21.”

Section 519.21 represents activities which are outside the reach of township zoning control. Nevertheless, since the introduction of the Medical Marijuana issue, the 131st General Assembly in HB 523 added the following language to O.R.C. 519.21 to deal with Medical Marijuana, which is not recognized as legal under federal law: “Nothing in this section prohibits a township zoning commission, board of township trustees, or board of zoning appeals from regulating the location of medical marijuana cultivators, processors, or dispensaries from being located in the unincorporated territory of the township.”

The Auburn Zoning Commission’s original public hearing of AUB-2017-01, scheduled for March 16, 2017, resulted in the appearance of an Auburn resident of thirty years with plans of opening and operating a processing plant for marijuana and another resident who presented information on medical marijuana. Although the public hearing could not be accomplished because of the cancellation of the Planning Commission meeting, discussion about marijuana from these residents ensued.

With the unanimous approval of the modified AUB-2017-01 by the Geauga County Planning Commission on March 21, 2017, the Auburn Zoning Commission was able to hold the public hearing on March 23, with the attendance of seven Auburn Township residents. The daughter of the resident interested in setting up a marijuana processing plant expressed concern about the speed with which AUB-2017-01 could/would be incorporated into the Auburn Zoning Resolution. She noted that the application for intent to set up a medical marijuana processing plant must be received by the appropriate state agency by May 1, 2017.

Before voting on the zoning amendment, members of the zoning commission engaged in considerable dialogue over confusion whether they could vote for amendment with amended language or whether any change in language would necessitate further contact with the Planning Commission and/or the Prosecutor’s Office. Ultimately, the members voted to approve the measure, but it carried narrowly by a vote of 3-2.

The next step in the process of approval of AUB-2017-01 is incorporation of the guidelines imposed by O.R.C. 519.12 [Zoning Amendments]. The Auburn Zoning Commission is to submit the approved zoning amendment to the trustees, who shall set a time for a public hearing of its own within thirty days of receipt. Notification of date and time of the hearing shall appear as a legal notice in the Geauga Maple Leaf or the Lake County News-Herald at least ten days before the decided public hearing date.

Although the trustee vote on the amendment may come at the end of the public hearing, the trustees may continue the public hearing to a later date or to more than one later date.

Published Thursday, March 23, 2017

Agenda items 20 and 21 at the March 21 Commissioner meeting concerned recent changes in Concealed Carry and implications for Geauga County buildings and personnel. Recent revisions in the law permit individuals to have guns in a locked car in a parking lot of governmental buildings. Moreover, up until now public employees by law and in employee policy manuals have not had the right to defend themselves in their buildings of employment even if the building permits concealed-carry.

Commissioners Claypool and Lennon engaged in active discussion. Claypool noted that there will likely be a number of court challenges with the new update; Geauga County Sheriff Hildenbrand has expressed no issue with the recent changes. Commissioner Lennon noted that guns brought into courtrooms will continue to be subject to search before admittance by security.

Claypool observed that most concealed-carry proponents do not resort to having handguns in public. Additionally, he noted that school personnel are actively engaged in achieving expertise in conflict resolution to defuse situations which could escalate emotional responses to potential problems.

Geauga employee, Linda Burhenne, who attends every Commissioner meeting in an advisory capacity, clarified agenda item 21 with the information that language regarding ammunition has been added to the employee personnel manual by Assistant Prosecutor Laura Lachapelle.

This issue, apparently in flux, appears to be the subject at many more Commissioner meetings.

Published Thursday, March 23, 2017

Two Eagle Scouts from Newbury Troop 99 received commendation at the Tuesday, March 21, 2017, Geauga County Commissioners meeting. Resolution 17-040 commended Noah C. Wilson, and
Resolution 17-041 honored Zachary N. Corkwell for their work in Oberland Park in Newbury. Noah restored wetlands and protected animal habitats. Zachary constructed an overlook with a railing at the park. Both young men performed services to preserve the pristine nature of Newbury park property.
We at auburntownship.org are proud of their achievements and look forward to knowing that these young men will be leaders in their community.

Congratulations to Noah Wilson and Zachary Corkwell and to Newbury Troop 99.

Published Sunday, March 19, 2017

The discussion followed Commissioner Spidalieri’s note that a Burton Township trustee had informed him that trash being collected on county property was blowing onto township property. Further, the township was installing snow fence to prevent loose refuse from the collection bins going into “the river.” Commissioner Claypool stressed the need to install cameras on the county property to promote more responsibility on the part of individuals who utilize the county facility. Thereafter, Commissioner Lennon referenced the inconvenience and expense of the drive to the Trumbull Solid Waste Facility to deposit selected trash.

That comment acknowledged ongoing talks with the Geauga-Trumbull Solid Waste Facility and the possibility of using a new company to resolve the problem of Geauga County waste disposal more efficiently. Claypool noted that the Geauga Trumbull Solid Waste facility is running on a $4 million carryover and that apparently reports purporting the efficiency of the operation “are being fudged.” The previous director of the facility has retired, and a new leader, perhaps more receptive to negotiation, has been named. According to Claypool, the new five-year plan, though not perfect, is “fixable.” Commissioner Lennon noted that during his visit to the facility he noticed “ a lackadaisical attitude.”

Adding that Prosecutor Flaiz was contacted regarding curbside collection but has not yet responded, Claypool noted that the offer by trash collection services to provide curbside collection of recycled materials may also help resolve current difficulties. The recycling of electronic waste is of critical necessity to consumers. Claypool observed that excess capacity at collection facilities in the city of Garfield Heights may be a valid alternative to current trash collection practices. Also ongoing is the experimental installation of cardboard trash collection receptacles on county grounds.


Published Monday, March 13, 2017

Chardon Municipal Court Case 2016 TR C 06683, styled State of Ohio v. Matheney, Mary B., was filed on November 19. 2016, after Assistant Prosecutor Bridey Matheney was arrested on November 19-20 and charged with DUI after Bainbridge police were notified by another driver of Matheney’s erratic behavior on Route 306. Police dash-cam video showed Matheney going left of center and failing three field sobriety tests.

At the pre-trial hearing of February 27 before visiting Judge Allen, Matheney’s defense attorneys got Police Prosecutor Jim Gillette to agree to suppression of the fact that Matheney refused to take the breathalyzer test after being handcuffed and escorted to Bainbridge Police Station after her Ford SUV was towed.

Today both Gillette and defense team headed by Attorney Bossin of Mayfield Heights are to submit their written briefs by 4 P.M.

Published Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Geauga County Commissioners took time to recognize the achievements of four local Boy Scouts who have earned the status of Eagle Scout. Each of these young mean have earned twenty-one merit badges in the areas of first aid, good citizenship, communication skills, environmental science, physical fitness, camping skills, family life skills, emergency preparedness, management, and cycling, hiking, or swimming. The four young men honored today are all members of Troop 102 in Bainbridge Township. They are Nicholas Manocchio, Ryan Sauder, Adam Shaw, and Russell Woodworth.

Nicholas Manocchio completed his Eagle Scout project by installing a retaining wall garden and constructing several games in the Lake County Metro parks.

Ryan Sauder worked with the Geauga Park District to construct turtle habitat logs for placement in wetlands areas and a lake.

Adam Shaw renovated the outdoor worship channel of Valley Presbyterian Church.

Russell Woodworth created a “Ga-Ga” ball pit at the Chagrin Falls Park Community Center for use by at-risk youth.

The reception honoring these four young men will occur Saturday, March 11, 2017, at 1 P.M. at the Church of Holy Angels, 18205 Chillicothe Road. We at auburntownship.org are proud to recognize the efforts of these fine young adults. We look forward to sharing with the community the accomplishments of these and other Eagle Scouts in Geauga County. Congratulations to our young heroes.

Published Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has recently disbursed more than $14.9 million dollars to improve outdoor recreational opportunities for Ohio residents. Funding for the projects has come through Clean Ohio Trails Fund, Nature Works, and the Recreational Trails Fund for disbursements of about $15 million.

Clean Ohio Trails Fund has disbursed $10.5 million for 22 projects in 12 Ohio counties. Funding requires a 25% match from each of the recipients. The Clean Ohio Trails Fund is the result of a $400 million bond program approved by Ohio voters in 2000. The grants will enable construction and expansion of trails for hiking, biking, and running to build/improve healthy lifestyles.

Nature Works has provided $3 million in grants to improve public access to outdoor recreation for 23 playgrounds, 11 restrooms, 8 shelters, 18 ball fields/tennis and basketball courts; 14 trails, and 2 splash pads. Recipients are required to provide a 25% funding match for eligible townships, villages, cities, conservancy districts, joint recreational districts, and park districts. Like the Clean Ohio Trails Fund, Nature Works received its funding from voter approval of the Ohio Parks and Natural Resources Bond Issue in November 1993.

Funding for Recreational Trails Fund is available through the fuel excise tax collected from the use of non-highway recreational vehicles and administered by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration.
Recreational Trails Fund made $1.5 million available for 13 projects by 12 Ohio townships. Of that amount, $1,144, 627 was actually disbursed. Lawrence Township in Tuscarawas County received two awards totaling $173,520. The average award per successful applicant was $71,539.

The smallest award was $11, 669, awarded to two Geauga County townships, Newbury and Auburn. With acceptance of this money, both townships are required to provide a 20% financial match, which is $2333.80, presumably from taxpayer funds in the gasoline tax fund.

Source: Ohio Township News, Jan/Feb 2017, page 49

Published Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Observed prior to her court appearance in Chardon Municipal Court, Assistant Prosecutor Mary Bridey Matheney rested her head on both arms while seated at a table. The typical wide open grin and “girls just want to have fun” demeanor had turned to seriousness.  During this appearance Matheney got to play the role of defendant rather than prosecutor. She is the defendant in a DUI/OVI criminal case filed in Chardon Municipal Court on behalf of the State of Ohio after being arrested following the observation of a motorist directly behind the Matheney vehicle. That motorist observed her weaving multiple times around 11:00-11:30 P.M heading south on Route 306 in South Russell. Subsequently, Bainbridge Police also observed Matheney veer left of center before they pulled her over and administered three sobriety field tests whose results convinced them to arrest her and tow her car for the safety and well-being of both her and the Bainbridge community. The actual arrest occurred very close to midnight, Monday/Tuesday, November 19-20, 2016. After several continuances, the Geauga Prosecutor known as “Bridey” Matheney made her very first appearance before visiting Judge Allen, a retired jurist from Willoughby Hills, Ohio.

The proceeding, which was scheduled to occur at 2:00 P.M. did not actually commence until 3P.M., largely because municipal court employees had hardware difficulties and could not get the Bainbridge Police Department DVD recording of the November 19-20 arrest to play. When two copies were dysfunctional, defendant Matheney left the courtroom to return with her own personal copy, which was the one that finally played when municipal court staff were able to jerry rig a projector screen and antiquated hardware in place of the modern monitor. Additionally, the proceedings were interrupted by two other scheduled court appearances, one handled by Judge Allen and one handled by Chardon Municipal Court Judge, Terri Stupica. In the same court room with Matheney’s defense team and the State of Ohio’s witness and prosecutor in the room at the same time. As accurately as this writer can reflect, the entire “pre-trial” hearing lasted about 2 ¼ hours.

The State, represented by Prosecutor Jim Gillette, presented two witnesses to corroborate the charges that Bridey Matheney was driving under the influence and was outside the proper lane for southbound travel. Witness Vincent James Cavallaro testified under oath that he was directly behind the Matheney vehicle heading south on SR 306 from Music street in South Russell until making a left turn at East Washington Street in Bainbridge. He testified seeing Matheney swerving broadly enough to come precipitously close to mailboxes and on the wrong side of the street at Bell road intersection causing other vehicles to swerve in order to avoid physical contact with the Matheney SUV. He added that he had contacted the Bainbridge Police Department using oral commands to the Blue Tooth apparatus to make contact with Bainbridge dispatch. As he reached the intersection of East Washington and SR 306, he became aware of the parked Bainbridge cruiser before turning East on Washington Street. He responded to Defense Attorney Bossin’s question that he had not drunk any alcoholic beverage whatsoever. The witness responded to one of Bossin’s questions, “It’s been over for awhile,” apparently referencing that the offense occurred late on the evening of November 19, more than three months prior to the hearing.

The second witness for the State, Bainbridge Police Officer, Allen Dent, was sworn in and took the stand at about 3:30 P.M. He responded to Prosecutor Gillette that he had been an employed police officer for six and one-half years. Under further questioning by Gillette, he noted that he had graduated from the police academy, where he had received hands-on-training in the performance of standard sobriety tests. That training had enabled him to understand what alcohol-impaired drivers would look like and how they would act. He further described the behavior exhibited by Matheney after the traffic stop which had enabled him to suspect alcohol-caused impairment and caused him to request backup.

One of his earliest questions after referencing a particular event one minute and sixteen seconds into the DVD, Defense Counsel noted, “You are basing your knowledge on classes six years ago?” The arresting officer answered, “Yes.”

Attesting that the pavement was wet with snow, that Matheney had complained of being “very cold,” and that she had been wearing boots, the defense counsel asked, “Did you give her the option to remove her boots? Did you give her the test again at the station under dry conditions?” The answer was no in both cases.

The examination of the police officer ceased at 4:50 P.M. At that time visiting judge Allen informed both attorneys (Prosecutor Gillette and defense attorney Bossin) that they were to submit closing briefs within the next fourteen days.

Several pieces of important information were revealed during the process:
1) The State, represented by Prosecutor Gillette, agreed to suppress the fact that Matheney had refused to take the breathalyzer test, one of five pieces of alleged evidence in the case against Matheney.

2) Prosecutor Gillette referred to the date of the event as Saturday, November 19, 2016. It is curious that November 19 has been alleged to be the date of a holiday party at Guido’s in Chester Township held by the Geauga Bar Association and identified at the Geauga County Bar Association website in late 2016 as a B.Y.O.B. (Bring Your Own Bottle) event. Is it possible that Mrs. Matheney’s presence at that affair was the reason for her travel route before being stopped in Bainbridge?

3) During the course of cross-examination by Attorney Bossin, the police officer noted that during the initial conversation after the traffic stop, he had immediately asked about “the red Solo cup” on Matheney’s console and also noted “the strong smell of alcohol.” When he returned to the vehicle several minutes later, " the red Solo cup” had disappeared. Does such disappearance suggest motivation by the defendant to withhold incriminating evidence?

4) During the whole “pre-trial” hearing, Ms. Matheney was observed to avert her eyes and avoid visual contact with anyone but her two defense attorneys.

As you may recall from earlier posts here, Bridey Matheney has been an unsuccessful primary election candidate for multiple county offices, the last of which was for common pleas judge in March 2016. Additionally, she was a 2015 “graduate” of Leadership Geauga, joining the ranks of retired sheriff Dan McClelland and his uncontested successor, Scott Hildenbrand, both Geauga County Emeral Award winners.

It must be remembered that as a township prosecutor actively involved in courtroom litigation from the beginning of her hiring in 2007 until being appointed “supervisor” about 2015 by the current prosecutor, Matheney was known to attest that her courtroom opponents would “not be a role model.” As a result of her current role as defendant in a criminal case, can she herself now claim to be a role model for the safety and well-being of the Geauga County community?

Editors note: Click on the red Solo cup above and discover the Easter Egg.

Published Monday, February 27, 2017

According to the Chardon Municipal Court online docket, Chardon Police officer, Byron Childs was caught stealing from Great Lakes Outdoor Supply in Bainbridge on December 21, 2016. He was arraigned today, approximately two months later, in Chardon Municipal Court on a charge of violating ORC 2913.02(A)(1) Theft. Penalty for the First Degree Misdemeanor is $1000 fine and six months in jail.

Visiting retired Judge Allen, from Lake County, was on the bench ostensibly to hear the pre-trial hearings against Geauga Assistant Prosecutor Mary “Bridey” Matheney on charges of DUI/OVI in case 2016 TR C 0683. Since Childs is a Chardon City employee, Municipal Court Judge Terri Stupica chose to recuse herself from the Childs case as well as the Matheney proceedings. Unsubstantiated sources reported that the attempted theft involved a bow priced at approximately $600. Childs’ case number is 2017 CR B 00157, styled State of Ohio vs. Childs, Byron W.

Mr. Childs was accompanied by his attorney, Dennis J. Ibold. When asked by Judge Allen whether he would plead, Not Guilty, No Contest, or Guilty, Mr. Childs responded, “Guilty” without any hesitation at 3:20 P.M. As a result of that plea, Judge Allen was informed that the offender qualified for inclusion in The First Offenders Program, and the case will be sealed by Prosecutor Gillette. A "first offender" program is a way for a defendant to avoid the full effects of a criminal prosecution. It's a type of diversion, often for those who have no previous criminal record, or at least no felony convictions. (Usually traffic tickets don't count, but defendants with juvenile offenses may be disqualified).

Once he completes this program, Childs is entitled to retain his job in the Chardon Police Department.

A check of online records at Chardon Municipal Court reveals that Officer Childs has been the arresting officer and state witness for the State of Ohio in 200 separate cases. The ramification of this fact is that Officer Childs’ testimony was crucial to the conviction of many individuals charged with DUI, speeding, etc. Now that he himself has admitted that he is a thief, how is he qualified to be a witness for the State against other offenders? His case demonstrates the premise that there is often a fox guarding the hen-house. This is just the latest example of a public servant failing to be a role model.

Published Friday, February 24, 2017

Item #9 on the agenda of the February 23 Commissioners Meeting was a request from the Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation District for the Commissioners to issue a “Finding of Violation” against a resident in Bainbridge Township for failure to comply with a county Management and Sediment Control Regulation and a request for action by the Geauga County Prosecutor, Although the motion passed with Commissioner Claypool voting “tentative yes,” he requested that in the GCSWCD explore more mediation before turning an alleged violation over to the Prosecutor’s Office. Mr. Claypool interceded for the Bainbridge family and expressed disappointment at GCSWCD’s view that a homeowner is “negligent” if it takes a while for a landowner to comply. Mr. Claypool was careful to note that winter is a difficult time to stay current on landscape issues.

Published February 16, 2017

Dana Kapsio and Jordan Spehar and Girl Scout Cadette Troop 71119 and Junior Girl Scout Troop 70852 were honored at the Tuesday, February 14, 2017, Geauga County Commissioners Meeting for accomplishing character, citizenship and leadership. Commissioners Spidalieri, Claypool, and Lennon signed Resolutions 17-0021 through 17-0024 and announced the honor ceremony for the girls and the organizations that will take place on February 26, 2017, at 1 P.M. at Kenston High School in Bainbridge.

Dana Kapcio, a member of Girl Scout Troop #71394, Kenston Service Unit, earned the Gold Award for designing and installing landscape, including a garden, at Santa’s Hide-A-Way Hollow in Middlefield. Donations enabled her to install window boxes, a gingerbread family, a wheelchair-accessible gravel path, and a stepping-stone pathway to the on-site picnic tables.

Jordan Spehar is a member of Girl Scout Troop #71396, also in the Kenston Service Unit. She earned her Gold Award by installing a Little Free Library and outdoor chalkboard at the new outdoor classroom to promote community reading at Timmons Elementary School in Bainbridge.

Girl Scout Cadette Troop #71119 serves girls in sixth through eighth grades. The troop won the Silver Award by creating an educational tool to promote awareness of bullying and to help in its prevention. The troop developed a nine-week interactive program and video with the assistance of school administration and teachers. Members Emily Cronin, Catie Deken, Amber Nedelka, Audrey Oleskiewicz, and their leader, Karen Cronin, participated in the program to earn the Silver Award for their troop.

Junior Girl Scout Troop #70852, whose members are in fourth through sixth grades, earned a Bronze Award by raising funds through their cookie sale and car wash to pay for the installation of a non-slip surface at the Geauga County Dog Shelter. This new surface will aid Dog Shelter employees and volunteers to stay safe during their encounters with rescue dogs. Additionally participating troop members created a video and posters to create awareness about the work of the shelter. Troop members Maria Cowoski, Olivia Dicker, Zoey Kost, Lisa Markoff, Lindsay Myshrall, Emma Robertson, Sofia Salvini, Sabrina Schultz, Ashley Slates, Alayna Stachiew, Samantha Sunderhaft, and Sophia Voudris participated in the project with their leaders, Lisa Cowoski, Julie Voudris, and Betsy Myshrall.

We at www.auburntownship.org are pleased to note the achievements of these talented, willing, and able individuals and look forward to noting more of their future achievements.

Published Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Geauga County Commissioner Chairman Ralph Spidalieri had just finished the last scheduled item on the agenda of the February 14, 2017, Commissioner meeting and was in the process of announcing two unscheduled announcements when a voice from the audience interrupted with a question.
 Attendee Ed Buckles asked if Commissioners had discussed a letter written by his wife, Sandra Buckles, at the February 9, 2017, meeting. When Spidalieri answered no, Buckles interrupted again, questioning how the content of that letter had apparently wound up in the receipt of “a highly partisan group.”

From that point on, there was a great deal of interruption. Spidalieri remained calm as he turned to Commissioner Walter Claypool to ask if there would be any action that the Commissioners would take on Mrs. Buckles’ suggestion that Geauga County become a “sanctuary county” and then answered his own question with a “no,” followed by a “no” from Claypool.

County Administrator David Lair joined the conversation by explaining that a communication addressed to the Commissioners was subject to public information request. When Mr. Buckles demanded to see the public information request, it apparently became necessary for Spidalieri to demand that Mr. Buckles cease disrupting “a public meeting.”

Watch the video. We apologize for the visual quality, caused by back lighting in the Commissioners Chambers this morning. Nevertheless, the video tells the whole story: Ralph Spidalieri successfully dealt with a rude disruption.

Published Friday, February 10, 2017

In a sixteen-page journal entry filed in Geauga County Probate Court on February 2, 2017, Judge Lohn, adjudicating in place of Geauga Probate Judge Timothy Grendell, provided his reasoning for discarding a judiciary order of September 16, 2016, and the resulting Master Commissioner Report undertaken by Special Master Commissioner, Mary Jane Trapp.

It is critically important for the public to understand that the journal entry for Case No. 84PC 999139, known as In Re Chester Township Park District, is not the end of the story. Judge Lohn’s decision has been forwarded to the specially-appointed, visiting three-judge panel of Eleventh District Court of Appeals jurists as the latest documentation in the long-running litigation. It is unknown when this special panel will render its decision on the issue. It is expected that this judgment may be appealed by either party, although acceptance by the Ohio Supreme Court will be a discretionary judgment.

We find this issue to be of critical importance to the survival of the concept of Separation of Powers under the Ohio Constitution and will make every effort to keep the public informed.

Published Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Although the Geauga Commissioner meeting of January 31 breezed through fourteen items of business in less than half an hour, Commissioner Lennon did not adjourn the proceedings until 10:30 A.M. The Commissioners appeared particularly enthusiastic about sharing thoughts and anticipating actions that impact Geauga County’s future in the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA).

The conversation started out as a result of the perceived need to vote on the latest judgment that Cleveland is entitled to two more voting members on any NOACA decisions. Geauga County still has the smallest representation on the NOACA board. For quite some time Geauga County Commissioners have actively tried to gain voting recognition for Joe Cattell, the Geauga County Engineer with no success. Consequently, four other counties have approved the latest increase in Cleveland’s voting power on NOACA. This increase in power is attributable to Cleveland’s density of population compared to the populations of Ashtabula, Lake, Lorain, Elyria, and Geauga. Geauga has remained the lone holdout on the ratification.

Commissioner Claypool provided a brief historical chronology of NOACA. He noted that up until the late 1970s every member county in NOACA had equal representation, with seven seats each. At that time county engineers were members of a separate venue of NOACA. Then something changed. Representation in NOACA was apparently redistributed according to density of population. Original members of NOACA who were queried by Claypool have no memory that the new representation format, apparently based on a new set of by-laws, was ever formally approved at any NOACA function. Without proof of that ratification, there is an ethical and legal question of legitimacy surrounding NOACA proceedings today. Worse,Geauga County has only two votes in NOACA, the smallest representation of any political entity represented by the organization.

Claypool expressed some cautious optimism for a better year for Geauga County road and highway projects now that Adam Frederick is President of the NOACA Board. Although NOACA staff controls all outcomes, the President of the Board can influence the kinds and numbers of projects that come to fruition.

On a different note, there is an awareness locally that the Ohio Department of Transportation has endorsed a separate metropolitan planning organization (MPO) for a possibly-united Lake and Geauga County. Lake County Commissioners are thought to be willing to consider such an alternative but may be nervous about impacts of such a strategy to the Vroomen Road Project.

Although Chardon City perceives that its bike trails can/will benefit from NOACA programs, NOACA impact upon Geauga transportation systems and air quality are thought to be negative. All three Commissioners agreed that Geauga residents need to be accurately informed, perhaps by newsletter, of the negative consequences of NOACA membership to Geauga County health and well-being.

Claypool updated the other two about the possible legal difficulties stemming from unratified NOACA by-laws. Geauga Prosecutor Flaiz was approached a year ago about the possibility of taking legal action against NOACA without having providing any updates or further communication.

Claypool asserted the need to spend money to determine Geauga’s legal standing vis a vis NOACA. Will the City of Cleveland file suit against NOACA? Possibly. Another possibility could be federal mediation to resolve some of the issues. If NOACA board members (i.e., Geauga County Commissioners) are sued by NOACA, the former are entitled to have their legal fees paid b y NOACA.
One other thing emphasized by Claypool is the need to save Geauga taxpayers money through wise and conservative administration of their tax dollars.

Commissioner Lennon made the motion, after about forty-five minutes of discussion, to table the vote on the NOACA by-laws. Towards the end of the discussion, Commissioner Spidalieri noted that if the City of Chardon wants “some things” from NOACA, its leaders need to learn to work under the county commissioners. Commissioner Claypool stressed the urgent need to reach out to state legislators John Eklund and Sarah LaTourette to effect a satisfactory outcome for the county in regard to the NOACA conflict. Finally, the commitment to contact the county prosecutor again to achieve some relief for the county from NOACA problems was the final plan of action before adjourning the January 31, 2017, Geauga County Commissioner meeting at 10:30 A.M.

Published Saturday, January 28, 2017

Subsequent to the arraignment of Geauga Assistant Prosecutor Mary Brigid (Bridey) Matheney in justice gaggedthe courtroom of Chardon Municipal judge Terri Stupice, Matheney’s attorneys, Kenneth Bossin and Melissa O’Brien and Meredith O’Brien, asked on November 23, 2016, “to preserve evidence.” Since a reliable source has indicated that Matheney did not submit to breathalyzer, we conclude that the “evidence” referenced is the Bainbridge police dash cam video.

Yesterday the Chardon Municipal docket for Matheney’s DUI/OVI case (TR C 006683 noted that Matheney Attorney Bossin has now made a “motion to suppress.” We conclude that Matheney’s defense team is now asking that the police dash cam video not be used during her pre-trial hearing.

If Visiting Judge Allen grants that motion, would the only admissible evidence be the oral testimony of the arresting Bainbridge officers? Would such an action be in the best interests of fair and equal justice? If the readers of this article had been arrested for DUI/OVI and refused a breathalyzer evaluation, could they expect to have the judge suppress a video that demonstrates the defendant’s vehicle crossing the yellow line and shows the existence of an open container in the vehicle?

We will keep you updated.

Published January 25, 2017

Back in March 2016 a local farm family with the backing of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy expressed interest to the Commissioners in applying for the Department of Agriculture’s Local Agriculture Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP). That farm was eventually accepted into the program without the intervention of any land conservancy program. In addition, the Commissioners designated the Geauga County Soil and Water Conservation Department as the county entity to process future applications to the yearly program of easement purchases underaken by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Authorization for purchase of easements for agricultural property results from the Green Ohio Act.

According to Carmella Shales, Director of the GCSWCD, the available funding statewide for the purchase of agricultural easements is $8 million, with about $151,900 available to local applicants, who must declare their intent to send an application for funds by February 17, 2017. Funding is available on a first-come-first-served basis. Should there be a rush of applicants, then a set of criteria will determine the worthiest applicant(s), based on scoring devices determined in advance by the Ohio Department of Agriculture. A site survey conducted by GCSWCD will follow each intent-to-apply statement.

All hard copies of applications shall be in the GCSWCD by April 18, 2017, with all such copies being in the hands of the Ohio Department of Agriculture by May 2, 2017.

Published January 9, 2017

Since the inception of 2017, Geauga County Commissioner meetings are no longer “officially” videoed as a public service by the incumbent commissioners. Absent for the meeting of January 5 and the meeting of January 9, 2017, frequent Commissioner-meeting attendee, Walter Leagan,
asked this morning what had caused the absence of the long-standing camera operated by county administrator, David Lair. Commissioner Spidalieri responded that “we are not required to video any meetings.” Further, he made reference to the video camera in the back of the room, indicating that “the camera belongs to someone.”

The video camera does indeed belong to these writers. Prior to the policy of former Commissioner Blake Rear of facilitating transparency by officially videoing the events, these writers attended as many public meetings as possible and provided video of the events as a public service to interested Geauga County residents. We are disappointed to note that our concerns during the beginning of December that two of three Commissioners would choose to terminate the videoing for the community have been confirmed. We are, nevertheless, pleased to be able to provide an accurate record of the events of the Geauga County Commissioner meetings without the need for comment (though an occasional question is warranted). The video transmits its message. When we find it necessary, we will annotate the video with well-documented observations.

The video from the January 9, 2017, Geauga Commissioner meeting is now online at Auburntownship.org.

We wish all of you a happy and safe 2017!

Published January 5, 2017

On January 3, in broad daylight, an Auburn Township resident on Taylor May Road noted with the aid of his smart phone that someone was inside his house and robbing him. He called the sheriff and eventually video of the alleged culprit appeared on Facebook and helped in the apprehension of two suspects.

Amazingly, the couple responsible for the robbery, who are residents of Lakewood, Ohio, were arraigned in Chardon Municipal Court on January 4, 2017, at 8 A.M. They are Raymond Anthony Miller, charged in 2017CR 00013, State of Ohio vs. Miller, Raymond Anthony, and his wife, Donna Marie Miller, charged in 2017 ! 00012, State of Ohio vs. Miller, Donna Marie. Both suspects are residents of 1573 Lakewood Avenue. Both have been charged with violating ORC2911.12, for committing burglary, a second degree felony. Raymond Miller on January 5 has been bound over to Geauga County Common Pleas Court after having bail set. According to the docket, Donna Marie is to be transferred to lock-up on January 6, 2017.

Published January 2, 2017

Recently, while doing some research, this writer came upon documentation that a county prosecutor who was appointed in 2012 to fill a vacancy in the Ohio House of Representatives and who unsuccessfully ran in both 2014 and 2016 in Republican primary contests for the office of Geauga County Auditor and Common Pleas Judge, respectively, faces two criminal traffic charges in Chardon Municipal Court. According to the docket in 2016TR C 06683, Mary Brigid Matheney, Bainbridge resident, was stopped at Routes 306 and East Washington Street by a member of the Bainbridge Police Department on the evening of November 19, 2016. Offered a breathalyzer test, Mrs. Matheney reportedly refused to submit, resulting in a six-month suspension of her driving privileges. She has subsequently retained two DUI attorneys from the law firm of Saia and in Mayfield Heights. According to the documentation, Matheney currently has six points on her driver’s license. Conviction of charge #1, ORC 4511.191, DUI-Alcohol/Liquor/Drugs, carries a six-point penalty on her driver’s license and would automatically cause revocation of her license. Additionally, charge #2, potentially a violation of ORC 4511.33, for “driving in marked lanes,” carries an additional two-point penalty, bringing the total points for traffic violations to fourteen. Twelve such points, as noted above, gives rise to automatic suspension of driving privileges. This writer has made additional public information requests relative to this case.

The next court event is in the courtroom of Judge Terri Stupica on January 9, 2017, at 1:30P.M. Mrs. Matheney has already received one continuance in the prosecution, formally known as State of Ohio vs. Matheney, Mary B. Given the potential conflict of interest for Judge Stupica, we strongly recommend that she recuse herself from this case in an effort to provide the same justice that applies to every other citizen charged with the same crime. For those who are familiar with the site of the criminal charges, the intersection in question is the location of numerous accidents and resulting injuries to victims. Mrs. Matheney, who is a 2015 “graduate” of the Geauga Leadership Program, formerly headed by Dr. Robert Faehnle, is widely thought to be anticipating yet another primary race as Geauga County Common Pleas Judge; Judge Forrest Burt will be age-limited from running again for Common Pleas Judge in 2018.