No Decision Made On New Parkman Trustee
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Parkman Township Trustees were unable to decide which of six candidates to select for a vacant seat during a contentious meeting last Thursday night.
The meeting abruptly ad-journed amid accusations that one trustee would accept only one candidate, while the other trustee wanted anyone else.
Trustees Kevin O'Reilly and Nancy Ferguson must select a replacement for Patrick Joyce, who resigned Dec. 31.
If the two cannot decide on one of six applicants by Jan. 31, the committee designated on Joyce's nominating petitions will decide.
If the committee fails to make a decision, Geauga County Juvenile and Probate Court Judge Tim Grendell will decide the issue, under Ohio law.
Thursday night, O'Reilly said trustees were holding a public meeting in order to hear each candidate and give residents a chance to ask questions.
"This is our decision, not your decision," O'Reilly said in answer to a question from resident John Augustine, who objected to trustees allowing only one question from each person in the audience.
"We were elected to make that decision for you. Nancy checked and we can do this in executive session, but people requested a public forum, so that's what we're doing," O'Reilly said.
Each candidate gave a brief introduction and outlined their qualifications and desire to serve.
One candidate, Freeman Miller, is Amish. Ferguson pointed out that about half of Parkman's population is Amish.
Other candidates included Dennis Ikeler, Paul Eaton, Roger Anderson, Lucinda Sharp Gates and Ernie Conover.
Gates served as trustee from 2005 to 2009, after trustees had appointed her to fill the unexpired term of David Fuhry, who had been elected Geauga County Court of Common Pleas judge.
After the remarks, Augustine again challenged trustees' one question rule and said he had several he wanted to ask.
Ferguson said it was necessary to limit the number of questions in the interest of time.
Candidates fielded questions about the township's sewage treatment plant, the amount of time the candidates would be willing to give to the job, their views on strategic planning and how they would deal with increasing demands for services and shrinking revenue.
When Augustine asked several pointed questions, Miller said, "I'd like to ask John why you didn't run for this. You seem to have all the answers."
Amid laughter from the audience, Augustine replied he was so critical of trustees, he wouldn't be able to work with either of them.
He added they would never appoint him anyway.
Ferguson said, under the law, a candidate must be over age 18, a registered voter and a township resident in order to be a trustee.
"Each one meets that criteria," Ferguson said. "But I want someone who has Parkman's best interests at heart, deals with facts not opinions and is an independent thinker. Someone who has the ability to work together for the good of the community."
Anderson said he would need to take his name out of consideration because he is not a registered voter.
"I would have to disqualify myself," he said.
Resident Debbie Wilson asked if he wanted to run, would he have time to go up and register to vote before the decision is made.
Trustees said they would rather proceed and choose someone immediately, and Ferguson said she would rather make the decision instead of sending it to a committee made up of Joyce's "family and friends."
"It's our responsibility; I feel very strongly about it," Ferguson said.
She said she believed that both she and O'Reilly should list their top four candidates and narrow the list down by discussing each one.
"I've been thinking about this for some time now and we've now had the opportunity to do job interviews," O'Reilly said. "Based on qualifications and skills, there is only one candidate that stands out and that is Lucinda."
Ferguson reiterated she thought both should list their top four or three choices.
"No reflection on you, Lucinda, but this is an opportunity for those people who are here to see the process," Ferguson said. "I don't think that's unreasonable, Kevin."
O'Reilly said Gates is the most qualified because she had served as trustee in the past.
In a three-person race for two seats in 2009, Ferguson had defeated Gates by 32 votes after an often-heated campaign.
Augustine accused O'Reilly of stonewalling on behalf of Gates.
"Out of all the 4,000 residents of Parkman, you can only think of one person who is qualified?" Augustine asked O'Reilly.
"Excuse me?" Gates interrupted.
"I have the right to speak here," Augustine shouted, pointing at Gates. "I have the floor."
O'Reilly said he was not going to answer that question.
"Lucinda lost the election, then applied for a position that she created. That was a breach of ethics," said Ferguson's husband, Jon.
Gates was a trustee when the board decided to create a position of secretary to the trustees and after her defeat, she applied for the position.
"There's been a lot of innuendo in the township about this," Gates said. "It was not a breach of ethics. All three trustees created that position. It was advertised."
Jon Ferguson, citing the Ohio Revised Code, said a public official creating and taking a new position for their own benefit is a felony.
"It's a breach of ethics to create it and then apply for it," he said. "This was very clearly a breach of ethics."
Gates retorted it's three years later.
"Why did you not bring this out in public at the time?" she asked Ferguson.
Ferguson said she did.
"The bottom line is, Lucinda didn't win her position,"?she said. "If you want to run again in the fall, Lucinda, go for it."
One resident who identified herself as "Carol," said "things are out of control here."
"You're basically behaving like children and immature. You need to end this now," she said.
Conover added, "This has become a brawl. You picked only one person, Kevin. Pick four and then agree on one."
Miller said he was going to ask O'Reilly if he already had his mind made up.
"That would have wasted our time here tonight,"?he said.
Ferguson accused O'Reilly of wanting to send the issue to Joyce's committee all along because Gates is listed as a member.
She turned toward O'Reilly and said, "Kevin, look at me. You said it should go to the committee."
When O'Reilly denied saying that, Ferguson said, "I have a recording."
"I'm disappointed we could not resolve this,"?Ferguson told the audience. "If any of you want to run for this in the fall, I would be happy to help you."
Resident Dennis Simms accused O'Reilly of having his mind made up before the meeting.
O'Reilly replied Gates had been among several people who had called him about the appointment.
He said Gates did not come to the meeting last week, so he called her and asked her to attend this meeting and to give them her resume.
"So now her name will go to Pat's committee, that she sits on,"?Augustine said. "This stinks to high heaven. This fellow (O'Reilly) will be on the ballot this fall. Let's do what we can to replace him."
Ferguson said it was "very sad" the two of them couldn't come up with a name they can agree on.
"Nancy, you'll never agree on Lucinda," Simms said.
Jon Ferguson said trustees need to take another week before deciding.
Both trustees said they would consider continuing a discussion of the issue in executive session at their next meeting.
"I'm getting the impression we're adjourning the meeting tonight," O'Reilly said.
The meeting broke up abruptly, with several residents storming out in apparent frustration.
Ferguson and O'Reilly continued to argue as they got up from their seats.
"Nancy, you said anybody, but Lucinda," O'Reilly said.