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Commissioners clean up open meetings act violation

By Carol McIntire

Carroll County Commissioners acted on a recommendation of the county prosecutor and held a discussion in open session last week on a decision they made following an earlier executive session.

During the March 3 meeting, commissioners met in executive session citing the reason as: “to consider the employment for the interview process of the applicants for the office manager position in the commissioners office.”

Commissioners told news media they were not interviewing candidates; they planned to score applications using a numerical system and decide who they wished to interview.

After meeting behind closed doors for 48 minutes (a portion of that time with Clerk Victoria Peoples and Assistant Clerk Christopher Modranski), commissioners reconvened the meeting.

Just seconds later, they voted to rescind a motion to hire an officer manager and agreed to advertise for applications and hire an assistant clerk.

They then voted to authorize President Bob Wirkner to sign a letter to be sent to the 24 applicants for the office manager position advising them there would not be an office manager hired.

Commissioners then sought an opinion from the prosecutor on whether or not the executive session was legal under the Sunshine Law. Burns recommended commissioners “revisit the matter in open session”, noting the action they took following that session was “null and void.”

“When we looked at the candidate list for the office manager position, we questioned if we needed an office manager,” stated Commissioner Jeff Ohler.

 “We then visited with Vickie and Chris to discuss the matter. We agreed that with their strengths, they can manage the office with the help of an assistant clerk.”

Ohler then cleared the matter up by rescinding the motion made following the executive session, and made a new motion not to hire an office manager, to accept applications for an assistant clerk and to send letters to the office manager applicants advising them of the decision.

Wirkner asked for the letter to be signed by all three commissioners, rather than just the president, sign the letter to the office manager applicants saying it was a “board decision” not to hire someone to fill that position.

Until last September, the commissioners office was staffed with a clerk and assistant clerk. In August 2013, after hiring their office clerk as director of Carroll County Transit, commissioners agreed to change the title from clerk to office manager and drafted a job description that included requiring applicants to have a college degree. They did not advertise the position to the general public; instead filling it with one of the applicants for the transit position, Heather Campbell.

In late January, Campbell submitted her resignation and commissioners advertised for applications: 24 were received.

Following Campbell’s hiring as office manager, commissioners learned Ohio Revised Code requires them to have the title “clerk” in the office. They promoted assistant clerk Victoria Peoples to clerk.

Citing an increased workload and People’s plans to be on maternity leave, they advertised the position of assistant clerk and hired Christopher Modranski in December.

In recent weeks, commissioners decided there is not sufficient room in their offices for the support staff and agreed to create additional space in the hallway outside the office door. During the March 6 meeting, Commissioner Jeff Ohler announced he is obtaining quotes to remodel the area.

In other business, commissioners:
-AGREED to pay $6,569, which represents a five percent increase in the share township pay, to the Carroll County Health Department. Five trustees, representing the county trustee group, visited commissioners with Health Commissioner Nick Cascarelli March 17 to ask commissioners to pick up the increase for 2015. Citing a reduction in local government funds and an increase in material costs, commissioners agreed to pay the increase for one year.

-AGREED to consider the appointment of one or two trustees to the Community Improvement Corporation (CIC) at the request of the trustee group. Ohler said it is possible to amend the CIC bylaws to include representation by township trustees.

-AGREED to seek proposals for the replacement of the courthouse roof using rubber roofing on the flat portion and a plastic slate style material on the slate portion. Ohler said he hopes to begin the project in May.

-LEARNED Ohler met with officials from Carroll County Energy and Ralph Castellucci from Carroll County Environmental Services regarding the Northern Corridor project and plans to bring water and sewer along State Route 43 from Malvern to the Commerce Park area on SR 9. They also discussed a water purchase agreement for Carroll County Energy, grants, potential loans and financial contributions by the energy company.  Ohler said he would like to move forward with final engineering plans for the project within the next four to six weeks. Once funding is in place, it will take about 12 months to complete the project. Ohler said this time frame will fall in line with construction of the natural gas fired electric plant, which is expected to take about 30 months once approval is received.

-RECEIVED a revised oil and gas lease from Kenyon Energy regarding leasing 0.17 net acres in Loudon Twp. and 402.3 net acres for the Carroll County landfill. They will review and submit to the Prosecutor’s office for approval of form and function.

-WERE visited by Tim Ross, Eastern Ohio liaison for Gov. John Kasich, who presented an updated version of House Bill 375, the severance tax bill. Ross said under Kasich’s latest plan, after funds are provided to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources for overseeing the oil and gas industry, 20 percent of the severance tax revenue would be set aside for the needs of local government involved in shale development. Half of the 20 percent would go directly to the counties involved to used however they see fit; 25 percent would be used for local infrastructure projects and 25 percent would be held until 2015 as a “legacy fund” to help meet future needs.

Ross said Kasich’s latest version was provided to the House Ways and Means Committee last week.

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