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Commentary from 2015


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PROTECT GEAUGA PARKS ----HOW CREDIBLE ARE THEY AND WHAT DO THEY REALLY WANT
Published December 30, 2015

For the last eighteen months a group that after adopting several titles finally settled on the title of Protect Geauga Parks raises some important questions for observers who like to see reason and documentation prevail when questioning appointed and elected Geauga officials. When PGP first became active by showing up at Geauga County Park District monthly meetings, their first objections were to changes in GPD's mission statement and to the proposed changes in some by-laws. PGP has been represented at GPD meetings by as many as 30 people and as few as 10. The demeanor of members has often been raucous, rude, and narrow-minded. Occasionally, however, members of the group who have predominated during Public Comment time have been mild-mannered, reasonable, and low key. Overall, the prime objective of the group appears to be the gathering of signatures any way, any time, any place to enable the removal of Geauga County Probate Court Judge, Timothy Grendell, on the grounds that he is the entity making all the GPD decisions. The group seem very bitter at the unfortunate fact that former Probate Court Judge, Charles “Chip” Henry, was removed from the administrative position of overseeing the Geauga Park District by virtue of being killed while on his bicycle by a drunk driver back in 2011. So far, PGP claims to have well over 300 signatures that the group believe will result in Grendell's removal by the Ohio Legislature.

The biggest problem with the validity of PGP's actions appears to be that so many signatures on the petition are not complete names and/or are from individuals who are not Geauga County residents. We believe it is ludicrous for PGP to assume that any signatures, especially those coming from out-of-county, should be considered representative of the will of Geauga County voters.

In checking over the “membership,” we believe it becomes very clear that many of the names of members were added by a handful of individuals purporting to represent the leadership of the group. We noted that many of the members, some of them repeats of names added at earlier times, upon closer examination wind up being individuals from Lake County, Cuyahoga County, Portage County, and Summit County. Some of the individuals cited as members live in Columbus, Youngstown, Delaware, etc. We have noted that “members” listed by Kathryn Hanratty, who appears to have contributed more names than any other member of PGP, are likely to work for colleges and universities, though not Geauga County institutions of higher learning. Likewise, those “members” added by PGP member Debbie Mayo appear to be practitioners of holistic or alternative medicine, though often, again, not from Geauga County. Further, we are disturbed by the number of names of “members” who once lived in Geauga County but presently reside in other counties by choice. Further, there are a huge number of “members” whose residence is simply not listed, but with further research are entities known by Google to reside elsewhere than Geauga County. To view the "members" pf Protect Geauga Parks click this link.

What is most telling about Protect Geauga Parks “membership” is that on the first page, a number of politically active individuals leap out at the observer. For instance, Chairman of the Geauga County Republican Party and Republican Primary candidate for Commissioner, Nancy McArthur, is the very first “member” listed. The second “member” is former Eleventh District Court of Appeals Justice, Mary Jane Trapp, who is now a principal in the Geauga legal firm of Thrasher, Dinsmore, and Dolan; unlike McArthur, she, like a majority of the “members” are Democratic or Democratic-leaning with strong anti-fracking views. In fact, several people with whom we spoke, expressed unawareness that the PGP group was anything more than an anti-fracking movement. Many of the “members” listed have deep roots in an earlier anti-fracking group started in Geauga County years ago by Kathryn Hanratty. Examples are Kari Matsko, Catherine Whitright, Bob Hagan (Youngstown state representative), Ron Prosen (NEOGAP representative), Steven Corso (winner of a Geauga Park District grant for a “scientific” wildlife study about 2013) and his wife, mathematics teacher, Tatiana Yudovina; Katherine and Rick Webb, and several others. Other Protect Geauga Parks “members” are horse owners affiliated with Geauga Horse Council, namely Joy Keco and Diane Cogswell and assorted Cogswell family members. Additionally, Linda Golding, late of Auburn Township and the GHC, is listed as a member of Protect Geauga Parks with a residency in Ocala, Florida.

We have witnessed the names of several members of the prominent Henry family from Geauga County, particularly Adam, Linda, and Jeanne. We wonder whether the latter three even know that they are “members” of the group or whether their names were added for recognition-appeal.

Not surprisingly, we see the names of prominent Geauga Democrats, Terry and Janet Carson, as well as township politico, former Trustee Andy Bushman, and Chester's Jim Patterson, prominent as a former Geauga Park Commissioner who was discovered to be promoting his agricultural venture from one of the pages of the GPD website during the tenure of former GPD Director, Tom Curtin.

In researching the names of 600+ “members,” we are most struck by the fact that only about 50% are legitimate residents of Geauga County. For PGP, which touts itself as a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization, we believe it is most critical that the group maintain strict and unblemished credibility. The criticisms that the group have launched against the current Geauga Park District Commissioners require t hat they keep their own reputation pristine. As a 501(c)(4), PGP is required to fulfill a mission for the betterment of Geauga County. Instead, the group appear to be engaged in less than 100% honest actions. Whether intentional or accidental, their actions demonstrate demagoguery.

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN AUBURN INFAMY
Published December 8, 2015

Trustee Cavanagh's opening statement at the December 7 trustee meeting identified the date as “the day of infamy.” This was a nice touch before introducing guest speaker Ryan Callender, a partner at Squire Patton Boggs in downtown Cleveland. Mr. Callender, it turns out, has a very impressive background in finance and Initial Public Offerings (IPOs), including municipal bond offerings in the federal and state tax exempt category. A bond offering to pay for the Auburn Township service garage would be such a tax free investment, offered to investors desiring lower interest paying vehicles to save them federal and state income tax on securities interest. The group of investors most interested in tax-exempt municipal bonds are in a high- income tax bracket. This sector has probably become less active than the heyday twenty years ago when muni bonds could pay as much as 8% return on investment.

Mr. Callender noted that a bond traded on one of the major stock indices ( NASDAQ, NYSE, AMEX) will be security for any financing of a new service garage for Auburn Township. Interestingly, Trustee Eberly noted during the meeting that the prospective size of the service garage has increased from 18,000 square feet to 20,000 square feet, a fact not discussed in any public Auburn Township Trustee meeting during 2015. We note here that an increase of 2000 square feet is an increase of 11.11% over plans discussed with three different architects before the contract was awarded to Jim Larson. It is also important to note that nearby Woodmere has recently contracted for a new 9000 square-foot service garage that will adequately serve that community. It appears that Auburn trustees really aspire to bring a Taj Mahal to Auburn Township. With an IPO, it will no longer necessary for Trustees PJ, Jackie, and Mikey to sell lemonade.

Mr. Callender, a graduate of William and Mary College and the Law program at Cleveland State University, stated that he will provide the legal parameters for the IPO in a resolution that needs unanimous approval by the Auburn Trustees to proceed. That resolution is specified in Ohio Revised Code 505.262. The maximum financed amount of $2,000,000 is to be paid back to the bank in the amount of principal at a rate between 3.6% and 4.5% for 25 years, as certified by Fiscal Officer Fred May. The total amount of payback at the rate of 3.6% exceeds $3,000,000. According to Mr. Callender, it is more likely that the payback time will be ten years if Auburn Township elects to pay back the principal at a premium ( i.e., 103% or 102% of principal) by calling in the bond early. Those investors familiar with municipal tax offerings are often very happy to have their bonds “called in” within ten years for a bonus instead of sitting with low-interest paying securities for 20-25 years, over which period interest rates historically have increased for those with cash to invest.

Cavanagh asked if, once the contract was signed, the bank {Middlefield Bank} were “beholden” or obligated to the dollar amounts indicated. Callender confirmed that the bank is not beholden, meaning that a significant change in interest rates would dictate the signing of a new agreement. Callender's fee for his legal services in this issue is $6750.

Fiscal Officer May, still licensed as an attorney with the State of Ohio, offered the qualified non-legal opinion that he has reviewed the language drafted in the agreement that initiated the bond offering for the Auburn Township Fire Department addition circa 2012 and has found it to be essentially the same as language in the document presented by Callender of Squire Patton Boggs.

ORC 505.262 states the following with regard to the financing of municipal projects by bond:

By unanimous vote the trustees of any township “may adopt a resolution allowing the township to contract for the purchase of equipment, building, and . . .for the construction of a building.”

“The board may issue by resolution adopted by unanimous vote, securities of the township to finance purchases made pursuant to this division.”

The purchase or construction can proceed “unless the county auditor certifies that that . . .the debt service charge for the purchase or construction. . .exceeds one-tenth of the township's total resources from all sources.”

Trustee Cavanagh ended the conversation by noting that “we'll send this to our attorney [Matheney] tomorrow.” While we are impressed by the apparent expertise and knowledge demonstrated by Attorney Ryan Callender, we have no respect for the individual broadly identified in Geauga County as Dirty Birdie. Having argued highly questionable legal opinions on Auburn Township's behalf at the expense of Geauga taxpayers, Matheney's skill in reading, let alone, interpreting Ohio Revised Code, appears highly problematic.

We believe a major motivation for Auburn Township's expansive undertaking is to increase the asset side of the budget before the 2017 fiscal budget is completed by Fred May in July 2016. That fiscal budget proposal will go before the Geauga County Budget Commission, composed of Geauga County Auditor Frank Gliha, Geauga County Treasurer Chris Hitchcock, and a member of the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office ( James Flaiz, Mary Brigid Matheney, perhaps Susan Wieland, and/or several others) starting in early August 2016. Many readers may recall the scathing comments of Treasurer Hitchcock in regard to funds in Auburn's treasury that appeared to be stockpiling at least during 2014 and 2015 annual meetings with the Budget Commission.

Readers may also recall the experiences of Chester Township circa 2002-2003, when trustees there were eager for Clerk (now known as Fiscal Officer) Michael Spellman to invest in tangible commodities and financial products that would increase the assets of Chester Township. Spellman, reportedly feeling ostracized by the three Chester Trustees, did just that before absconding with $800,000 to $1,300,000 in Chester assets. There are widespread rumors that then Prosecutor David Joyce did not prosecute Spellman to the letter of the law, to the financial detriment of Chester Township. Spellman, having served a minimum prison sentence of ten years for theft in office, was recently released from prison to a “half-way house.”

Readers are reminded that the issuance of a bond to finance the Auburn Township Fire Department addition significantly raised the assets of Auburn Township, thus leading to raises granted to Auburn Township trustees per Ohio Revised Code during that time period. State-designated trustee salary regulations are based on the total dollar amount of the township budget. Many of you already know that township trustees in 2016 and 2017 will be receiving 5% raises in both those years because of 2015 Ohio Legislature actions. Wouldn't it be nice to get another raise because of an increase in Auburn Township assets by $2,000,000 to $2,800,000 with the completion in 2016 of a 20,000 square foot garage that will house five vehicles?

Think hard about the lessons of history and the possibilities that “the day of infamy” can create.

MORE TALES FROM THE ROCK PILE AT MOUNT AUBURN
December 1, 2015

Some of our readers will remember that just about a year ago, two friendly lawyers with roots at Taft, Stettinius, Hollister came to an amicable agreement regarding the rocks that Eclipse Companies were storing on a property in close proximity to residents' homes on Route 44, otherwise known to locals as Auburn Corners. On December 22, 2014, Mary Brigid Matheney, of the Geauga Prosecutor's Office since 2007, and a brief employee of the Taft, Stettinius, Hollister legal firm during the year 2003; and Gregory O'Brien, current employee of Taft, Stettinius, Hollister and legal counsel for Eclipse Companies in Auburn Township, signed a friendly joint consent form that saved both entities from actual court appearances. The Agreed Judgment Entry arranged for the dispersal of rocks from the said property to be totally removed by October 31, 2015. Sometimes referred to as Mount Auburn by Auburn Trustees and Board of Zoning Appeal members, the property is owned by an entity other than Eclipse Companies.

As October 31 approached and departed, it became quite clear to many who traveled along Route 44 that Mount Auburn was not going to disappear at the appointed time. Well, the two friendly legal opponents with the common denominator of Taft, Stettinius, Hollister have apparently concocted a new Agreed Joint Judgment Entry that was filed Monday, November 30. after being approved by Judge David L. Fuhry.

The new Judgment Entry reads as follows:
        “WHEREAS, Section 2(f) of the Judgment Entry provides for the stockpiling of Aggregate upon the Properties through October 31, 2015, but required the removal of all Aggregate from the Properties no later than November 1, 2015; and

        “WHEREAS, due to circumstances beyond Appellant's [Eclipse Companies] control, a percentage of the Aggregate remains on the Properties and the Parties desire to amend Section 2(f) of the Judgment Entry to address this small percentage of Aggregate [emphasis added]; and

        “WHEREAS, Appellant and Auburn Township believe it is in the best interest of the Parties to amend the Judgment Entry to allow Appellant to continue t o stockpile the remaining Aggregate on the Property through spring of 2016. [emphasis added]

        “NOW THEREFORE, in consideration of the covenants as stated below and other good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged by the Parties, the Parties agree to amend the Judgment Entry as follows:

        “ * * *
        2.
            f. Appellant shall be permitted to retain the processed Aggregate currently
        stored on the Properties provided the Aggregate is removed entirely from the Properties by
        May 31, 2016 [emphasis added].”

We would like to remind all who read this commentary that previous initiators of Administrative Appeals against Auburn Township during the time period of 2009-2015 appear to have been denied the right and privilege of negotiation with the Assistant Geauga County Prosecutor, identified as Mary Brigid Matheney, who indicated that Auburn Township elected/appointed officials “don't want to talk” with the Appellants of the several pieces of litigation which occurred in that time frame in Geauga County Common Pleas and Eleventh District Court of Appeals. A minor exception to that statement may be the case of the gazebo erected for the benefit of a child in 2011; this case resulted in the necessity of Appellants establishing a very hefty escrow fund that would guarantee the removal of said gazebo on or about 2021.

Where is the Bond/Escrow Fund that Matheney exacted from Eclipse Companies to ensure that the removal of the mountains of gravel stockpiled by the company would be guaranteed by the original deadline of October 31, 2015. There is no mention of a Bond/ Escrow Fund to be exacted upon Eclipse Companies in the Amended Agreement to guarantee the removal of the said “processed Aggregate stored on the Properties” to be “removed entirely from the Properties by May 31, 2016.”

A further statement of fact is that Matheney is a candidate for the office of Geauga County Common Pleas Judge because Judge David Fuhry is expected to vacate his office because of advanced age (70+). Matheney has just completed her first fundraiser. Matheney's declared candidacy carries a requirement that she resign all board/advisory positions on the Geauga County Republican Central Committee as well as any advisory positions on philanthropic, educational, or cultural associations.

Several opponents are expected to face Matheney in the March 15, 2016, Primary Election. Those individuals who have pulled/returned petitions from the Geauga County Board of Elections are David Fuhry himself, current Common Pleas Magistrate, Carolyn Paschke; and Geauga Park District Attorney, David Ondrey. Winner of the Republican Primary Common Pleas Court race will face the Democratic candidate for Common Pleas Court Judge on the first Tuesday in November 2016. Winner of that contest will take office as Geauga County Common Pleas Court Justice in January 2016.

Stay tuned until May 31, 2016, for the outcome of this Mount Auburn saga. Meanwhile, two other pieces of litigation, both of which list Matheney as the legal representative for Auburn Township, are extant in Geauga County Common Pleas Court with no apparent sign that either will be resolved, as the Eclipse Companies case has been, by negotiation.

We furnish photos of the stockpiled “processed Aggregate” taken on two dates: October 6, 2015, and on December 1, 2015. Although the Amended Agreed Judgment Entry references a small percentage of Aggregate, the photos seem to illustrate quite clearly that only a miniscule amount of Aggregate has been removed since October 31, 2015. We will be very surprised if the situation is resolved by May 31, 2016, and expect that there will be several Amended Agreed Judgment Entries to make up for the lack of a strong performance Bond exacted upon Eclipse Companies. We hope that readers will remember that in other Administrative Appeals. Assistant Prosecutor turned Common-Pleas-Judge-candidate was very adamant that her clients, Auburn Township, did “not want to talk to you” and that Appellants “will not be role models.”
    Coarse aggregate October 6                                    Coarse aggregate December 2
    Small aggregate October 6                                    Small aggregate December 1



THE UNFORGETTABLE AND UNFORGIVABLE BETRAYAL OF AUBURN CORNERS BY ITS “TRUST-EES”
Published October 31, 2015

Once upon a time, several generations ago, the bulk of Auburn Township residents were clustered along the State Route 44 (Ravenna Road)- State Route 422 (East Washington Street) corridor. Long the path that the earliest settlers took to get from Ravenna to Painesville, it was the site of the first “official” Auburn residents. Bildad and Emily Bradley from Elmira, New York, who settled the area in 1816 but had to move their residence from Ravenna Road in Newbury to Ravenna Road in what is now known as Auburn Township. This area was the logical pattern of development in the community because the dirt stagecoach trail carried settlers north and south along the Ravenna-Painesville corridor. The establishment known as The Auburn Inn, at the intersection of SR 44-SR 422 is the original stagecoach stop that housed and fed the earliest settlers in search of farmland in the Western Reserve. Many of these settlers came from Connecticut and Massachusetts as a result of being sons of American Revolutionary War veterans who took their pay for their military service in the form of land grants. Other early settlers were from the New York area with access to the Western Reserve because of the Erie Canal. Although many of the descendants of the very first settlers were motivated by the restlessness that came with too much civilization to move westward by the 1850's, enough of the descendants of the original settlers (Canfields. Mays. Richards and Staffords. for example) stuck around to try to clear “the great dark woods” often known to the earliest brave-hearts as Troy, rather than Auburn or Auburn Corners.

Enter the Twentieth Century and the Great Depression. Those who could abandoned the large farms that demanded back-breaking labor and moved into the crowded neighborhoods of Cleveland, where industrial jobs at American Steel and Wire and other steel plants provided more readily-available cash to raise young families and provide walking-distance access to schools, churches and synagogues, and shopping. The only ones left in the Geauga “boonies” during these hard times were those who could not get away or those who wanted cheap land that could be bought from desperate cash-strapped farmers without the benefit of farm subsidies or any other protection offered by the Hoover Administration.

As early as 1932, the year of the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt to the Presidency, the City of Akron was witnessing the rise of a young engineer known as Wendell LaDue. Under the leadership of LaDue, the City of Akron started purchasing vast numbers of homes and farms along Bridge Creek and Black Brook in order to create a safe, substantial drinking water supply. The homes and farms on about 3600 acres in close proximity to the Cuyahoga River were destroyed by flooding to dam up the Cuyahoga River. Completed in 1961, the dam that has come to be known as LaDue Reservoir, created a low, marshy area that could not sustain septic systems and resulted in sewer backup. By 1963, at the height of his personal fame and glory, Wendell LaDue retired from the City of Akron Waterworks to become a teaching professor at the University of Akron.

The residents along the Ravenna Road-Washington Street corridor did not fare as well. Many of them young residents in the early 1960's. They were established on small, water-logged parcels that could not support either agriculture or much density-coverage, making them virtually unsaleable and unusable, through no fault of the owners themselves. Although the area saw the growth of a few gas stations and a real-estate office, the area had nothing of attraction to anyone who had motor access to more lucrative areas of northeast Ohio. Industrial jobs in Cuyahoga and Summit Counties in the Cleveland-Akron complex kept a large number of people out of Geauga County. Those in Auburn Township without access to these industrial corridors were trapped in the “boonies” with little access to any financial incentives for living in Auburn Township.

The whole Auburn Corners area seemed to catch Speculators' Fire when the Geauga County Department of Water Resources, as a result of litigation initiated by the City of Akron, developed plans for a sewerage plant to relieve the possibility/probability of drinking water contaminated by human sewage at LaDue Reservoir. Under the guise of rationalizing the need for such a sewage plant and incredibly expensive annual sewage assessments assigned to residential owners, Auburn Township Zoning rezoned the Auburn Corners area into small-lot commercial parcels and managed to convince residence that their properties would bring financially lucrative profits as businesses scooped up the small parcels for enterprise now that the area would be served by sewers. The whole area caught fire with the sale of small acreage to then Cleveland Browns Quarterback, Bernie Kozar, for development of either a restaurant or an athletic complex. Then followed the rage to purchase small lots to combine in the area in order to sell to more would-be Bernie Kozars. Auburn Corners could be a virtual gold mine once the sewers were in and functioning.

The prohibitive assessments began about the year 2000. The tragedy is that many of the property owners were by this time of retirement age with no opportunities to get the cash flow needed to pay for the sewer assessments that kept coming year after year and added up quickly when the 10% penalty for non-payment kicked in. Sadly, even Bernie Kozar could not pay the sewer assessments and wound up losing the property to foreclosure and personal bankruptcy. In short, the marketing to promote land speculation in Auburn Corners resulted in a burst bubble when no one could pay their taxes and abandoned their properties or gave them up because of foreclosure. Trustee John Eberly, whose father had managed to sell his parcel in Auburn Township to a Bainbridge architect who is still holding on to the unmarketable real estate some years earlier, caustically blamed Bernie Kozar as a deadbeat who had hurt Auburn Township taxpayers. That was an example of Auburn Trustee scapegoating which was supposed to shut up any critics, an example, perhaps of the Delphi Technique to shut up whistle-blowers and those who will not be intimidated by “the good old boys.”

This is not the end of the Auburn Corners tragedy by any means. Keep in mind that unpaid sewer assessments get penalized at 10% per annum. Think back to the years 2000-2007. when simple bank interest was running at 5-6%. How might someone in arrears on the LaDue Sewer Assessment ever get out from behind the Eight Ball without the opportunity of at least a significant cash flow? Worse yet, think back to the Lehman Brothers crash in 2008 and companies that were “too big to fall” but fell anyhow and caused massive numbers of real estate foreclosures for Middle Class families. Meanwhile, elderly residents in Auburn Township had no way out, no recourse, no solutions to the sewer assessment problem and the lack of marketability for Auburn Corners property except to accept the loss and walk away from any equity they may have enjoyed in Auburn Corners. What a tragedy for Auburn Corners voters!

The saga still is not finished. There have been at least two attempts by Sidley Construction with variances granted by the flawed Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals to construct enterprises at the corner of East Washington and Ravenna Roads. That initiative began four years ago and is dead in the water.

After Auburn Township bought the foreclosed Bernie Kozar property in 2011 to create more cemetery space, they reluctantly, under pressure from Auburn taxpayers, sold the portion of the property with a house and barn to Ken Abha III of Aquilla Village, otherwise known as White Road Partners. In 2012. Three years after that purchase and the granting of both a variance and a liquor license, that planned gas station is also dead in the water. Since Mr. Abha is stuck with the same sewer assessment as impoverished homeowners along the Ravenna Road corridor, he has elected to rent the buildings out in desperation.

Auburn Corners, an area zoned for commercial development with prohibitively expensive real estate taxes exacerbated by prohibitively high sewer assessments, is an abject failure because of “Trust-ees” who have betrayed the trust that voters placed in them for prudent stewardship of the township and “action, not advice.” The incumbent trustee promoting himself as a man of “action, not advice” is spitting into the wind that is destroying any evidence of his ramshackle farm. Clearly, he is a man who should have sought both action and advice long, long ago. The whole community can witness the results of his being a man of “action, not advice.”

The latest development at Auburn Corners is that the latest request for a zoning variance ( in order to establish yet another landscape business, in close proximity to Eclipse Companies) failed in September and was effectively signed and sealed at the October 6 meeting of the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals. The failure of Auburn Township variance request, BZA15–06v. Has resulted in yet another piece of litigation filed against the incumbent Auburn Township Trustees and their puppet Board of Zoning Appeals. To BZA member Lew Tomsic's credit, he identified Auburn Township zoning as broken and beyond salvation. Now if only the Auburn Township Trustees could step out of the mid-twentieth century doldrums created by their own pompous insistence on doing it “the way it has always been done,” there could be some reform in Auburn Township. Instead, there is yet another test in Geauga County Common Pleas Court with results that will go to Eleventh District Court of Appeals with yet more expenses to all Geauga County taxpayers.

How long must innocent and trusting Auburn Corners residents bear the brunt of incumbent “trust-ees” who have destroyed all reason to be trusted?

How many of these victimized Auburn Corners residents and property owners are old enough to remember the incumbent once red-headed “trust-ee” as a spoiled brat who was still wet behind the ears?

How long must these innocent victims, ruined financially by three “trust-ees” with no vision for the salvation of Auburn Corners, be forced to endure the decades-old ho-hum lack of leadership of three tired old men, one of whom desperately needs to keep his own property out of foreclosure??

CAN YOU HELP US UNRAVEL “REAL STORY”?
Published October 28, 2015

For several years several residents have come forward to tell us two accounts as regards events at 16650 Ravenna Road, otherwise known as Cavanagh Farms. These residents, as far as we know, did/do not know each other. Furthermore, they no longer reside in Auburn Township. Nevertheless, they all shared a dark secret and related the events in a very similar manner. We find the similarities of their stories amazing as well as chilling,

In all cases, the events center around persistent rumors of fires set under the influence of “drugs” and the involvement of the Auburn Township Fire Department. In each case, the allegations center around a young Patrick John Cavanagh (approximately 19 years old) and assertions that at least one fire at that address necessitated the assistance of the Auburn Township Volunteer Fire Department to assist with an overdose which allegedly came close to killing that individual.

The similarity of the stories forced us to make inquiries of two agencies: the Geauga County Sheriff's Office and the Auburn Township Fire Department. Neither entity was able to supply any relevant information. Sheriff spokesman John Hiscox explained that a massive computer crash in 1996 wiped out all reference to any events in 1993. The response from Fire Chief John Phillips as he searched through documents stuffed in boxes in no particular orderly fashion to accommodate the move into the new fire department about 2011 was that there were no reports to corroborate any evidence of such events occurring in 1993.

During the time in question we were residents in Summit County with full-time professional career responsibilities anticipating the purchase of large acreage to fulfill our lifetime dream of becoming “real” farmers. At that particular time we were still unaware, of our own ancestral heritage in early nineteenth century Chardon, Chester, Kirtland, and Auburn-Bainbridge (Kenston) Townships and our ties to the early Mormon settlements in and around these areas.

The relaters of the reports to us were in each case long-term residents, in all cases elderly. Nevertheless, in each case the details that were related regarding the alleged overdose and fire involving a young P. J. Cavanagh, currently the incumbent trustee, were chillingly similar. In each case, the relaters shared the stories when they were in the midst of “moving” from Auburn Township after being residents for over thirty years.

Are there reasons why former residents, who did not know each other, should relate such similar stories? We are troubled by the similarities of the reports and the lack of “evidence” to corroborate them. Are there any members of our readership who might have evidence or anecdotal experience about these alleged “reports” to share? We welcome your help to unravel these reported events in an effort to make sense of them or to put them to rest forever. Email us at auburntownship.org@gmail.com


BROKEN ZONING IN AUBURN TOWNSHIP
Published October 7, 2015

Tuesday, October 6th, I had a chance to witness first-hand just how broken Auburn Township's zoning is. I attended a Board of Zoning Appeals meeting where Craig Sirna was requesting three variances to the zoning code so he could build a pizza restaurant at Auburn Corners.

The Corners has a lot going for it with the exception of the extremely restrictive, even punitive, zoning. Once upon a time this zoning could have been justified, since most of the lots that comprise the Corners are one acre or less. Its location by Lake LaDue would have posed septic issues due to high-density population and development. However, about twenty years ago the area was sewered with a plant located at the Corners to deal with the septic issues.

This event should have resulted in a boom of growth for Auburn Corners except the restrictive zoning of the 1940s was never changed. Now to build anything at the Corners still requires a zoning variance and/or a conditional use permit.

Forget about the added expense of a variance or conditional use to an owner willing to develop a lot at the corners. The real issue is that Auburn Township is engaged in spot zoning at the whims of the Board of Zoning Appeals and the Township Trustees. In other words, the zoning is broken.

With the advent of the sewer plant and because of lack of subsequent development, Auburn Corners is in a downward spiral with residents trying to move out and losing their homes because of the high sewer assessments. The assessments were made even higher to residents in Auburn Corners because lack of development means they have had to pay the whole cost themselves.

This situation is an example of poor leadership and lack of planning. It will take new trustees in Auburn Township to correct the failures of the past.

WHO BROKE AUBURN TOWNSHIP'S ZONING?
Published September 30, 2015

Just five years ago, Auburn Township Trustee policy was to refuse to talk to anyone who disagreed with them and to make them feel like outcasts. At the bidding of the Trustees, the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals dictated outcomes for zoning problems as though BZA members were lords of the Auburn Township manor. Looking back at the BZA decisions of 2009 and 2010, many of the outcomes were nothing more than “spot zoning,” a piecemeal solution, one quilting square at a time.

The policy worked for a while. Why? Auburn Township residents viewed BZA decisions like ironclad law or decided that the cost of an administrative appeal in Geauga County Common Pleas Court did not justify the loss at the local judicial level that they anticipated. Why bother fighting when you could suck up your gut and look at the cracks in the pavement rather than pursue an equitable judgment on principle. Virtually no one in the 1970s and 1980s seemed to contest an unpopular decision by filing an Administrative Appeal in Common Pleas Court under Judges Veit and until Auburn Glen Corporation in 1990 showed some resolve and mettle and won at the Ohio Supreme Court level. That case, with Assistant Prosecutor Forrest Burt at the legal helm under a very young and green Prosecutor named David Joyce (now known as just Dave) resulted in a resounding defeat, perhaps the first, for Auburn Township zoning code and its Trustees.

In 2009 and 2010 two Auburn farms, so angered at the audacity of the Auburn BZA to refuse any discussion or negotiation, each took Auburn Township to court by filing administrative appeals in an effort to overturn decisions that had been made between Auburn Zoning Czar Kitko and BZA members before the hearings even took place. A BZA hearing brought in income to Auburn Township, typically several hundred dollars, no matter what board members decided. It was easy money until the two farms got fed up, initiated court actions, and refused to let an erroneous decision by a stacked BZA team keep them from achieving justice.

In 2009 and 2010 Common Pleas Judges Fuhry and Burt most often sided with the individuals sitting in seats of power, both elected and appointed, so it took a huge chunk of pocket change to contest an erroneous judgment at the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, which often reverses the judgments of the two Republican Party-financed Common Pleas judges. Unfortunately, the local bosses can still file a discretionary appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court on the taxpayers' dime while the citizen-litigant has to foot his own entire legal bill.

And so it went, year after year, decade after decade, until 2009 and 2010, when the Eleventh District Court of Appeals slapped Judge David Fuhry, not once, but twice in a two-year period for erroneous and fallacious judgments in Common Pleas Court. Furthermore, it was as though the dam broke as unhappy residents filed some 14 lawsuits against Auburn Township between 2009 and 2014. It became apparent to many observers that Auburn Township was facing a rebellion from residents who were fed up with bully tactics from BZA members who may have thought that they were members of the Good Old Boys Network. Some sources speculated that Auburn Township might very well be the most litigious township in all of litigious Geauga County.

As a result Auburn Township became a featured topic at zoning conferences hosted by attorneys, planning associations, and state officials willing to highlight the practices that break township zoning instead of preserving it. Furthermore, the outbreak of litigation forced higher annual insurance rates upon Auburn Township and the intervention of risk management authorities insistent on remediating shortcomings that invited more litigation.

Auburn Township zoning is indeed broken, thanks to the repeated errors of Auburn Township Trustees, their errant lackeys, the Auburn Township BZA; and Geauga County Common Pleas Court.


GEAUGA COMMISSIONERS PROVIDE LOW-INTEREST LOAN TO HYDROPONIC AG VENTURE
Published September 24, 2015

The Geauga County Commissioners, through the auspices of the Office of Community and Economic Development, have sponsored the administration of low-cost long term business development loans to local enterprises that can benefit from increased cash-flow to grow their products/services in Geauga County. In what appears to be a precedent, Commissioners Claypool, Spidalieri, and Rear unanimously approved such loan, termed Local Revolving Loan Fund (LRLF) to Great Lakes Growers, LLC on September 22, 2015.

Commissioner Spidalieri revealed his personal struggle in accepting the idea of providing a low-cost cash advance to a venture which he identified as potentially riskier than he liked, obviously outside his comfort zone. When he asked for input from Commissioners Spidalieri and Rear, both overwhelmingly expressed their admiration for the company owners and their entrepreneurial spirit and willingness to take a risk with “cutting-edge technology,” in the words of Commissioner Rear. When it was time to take the vote, approval was unanimous. The loan consists of $250,000 for ten years at 4% interest “including Mortgage, Promissory Note, Participation Agreement, Guaranty of Timothy Ryan, and Guaranty of John Bonner” to develop hydroponically-grown plantings.

Having been a farm for 20 years, we are very interested in the Bonner/Ryan agricultural venture. We congratulate this current Board of Commissioners for their willingness to support agricultural innovation that can bring accolades to Geauga County and recognition that the area supports the efforts of hard-working, innovative, and resourceful individuals. Having found former Commissioner Tracey Jemison, Mary Samide, and Bill Young completely unsympathetic and unable to empathize with small agricultural ventures like our own.

Many of you doubtless remember us as the Auburn Township horse farm that was legally justified to install a 10kw wind turbine to make our farm energy-independent. You doubtless remember that Auburn Township knew of our venture and did not protest until three months after being informed. Then they, Trustees Cavanagh, Eberly, and Troyan, informed us by certified mail through their appointed employee, Auburn Zoning Inspector, Frank Kitko, that we were not entitled to have the wind turbine guaranteed by ORC 519.21.

Many of you doubtless remember that we were required to go through a sham hearing with the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals in the fall of 2010. Then Commissioner Tracey Jemison in a phone conversation said that the Commissioners chose not to be involved in our “problem,” though they made several zoning decisions that by-passed local BZA's during the same period.

Geauga County Common Pleas Court Judge Fuhry decided that we were a “wind farm,” though he was unable to determine from our CAUV status since 1998 that we were indeed an agricultural venture. In fact, there appeared to be much gossip and discussion at the county level that the “Auburn horse farm” was not really a farm at all because, after all, they only raised horses, not Ag crops. Coincidentally, they managed to use that same argument to delay the wine-making venture of Auburn Twin Oaks Winery, a legitimate Ag venture utilizing cutting-edge vinting technology.

Both cases, the Auburn Twin Oaks Winery and our own venture, Wind in the Woods Farm, were forced by the unwillingness of Judge Fuhry and the Auburn Trustees (one of whom is seeking approval for yet another non-stellar term) to negotiate with them, to pursue superior court intervention. Both legal cases, Schabel v. Troyan (Auburn Twin Oaks Winery) and Jones v. Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals (A Wind in the Woods), resulted in the reversal by the Eleventh District Court of Appeals of Auburn Township's kangaroo Board of Zoning Appeals court decision. Each case took over three years to resolve.

Auburn Township Trustee Cavanagh should be remembered for his initiative in spending Geauga County taxpayer money through the David Joyce (now known as “Just Dave”) Prosecutorial Office to try to get a hearing with the Ohio Supreme Court to shut down Auburn Twin Oaks Winery to please a handful of Twin Oaks neighbors who resented the Schabels' hard work, resourcefulness, initiative, vision, and passion.

In conclusion, we are praising the Geauga County Commissioners for their sense of vision, county pride, faith in the future, and positive reinforcement of the ideals of farmer-entrepreneurs like John Bonner and Timothy Ryan who make the rest of us Geauga County farmers proud. We understand and laud the success of Bonner and Ryan, who everyday provide a new sense of gratification that our own wind turbine is a huge success story which can be verified by David Dillon, regional manager of First Energy.

WOO HOO, Anita Stockard of Community and Economic Development. A double WOO HOO to Claypool, Rear, and Spidalieri for your well-deserved support of Geauga Agriculture!

PADEGIMAS' LAST REVENGE, or THE STENCH OF THE AUBURN MANURE PILE
Published September 17, 2015

Ever since its acquisition as a “gift” from owner Al. Padegimas to Auburn Township Trustees (Eberly, McCune, and Cavanagh) just prior to his death about 2004, Adam Hall has presented a bottomless bucket of challenges to fiscal responsibility. In fact, the construction mistakes and the negligence demonstrated by the Trustees as stewards of taxpayer money in the upkeep of this building make us think that the structure should be remembered as Padegimas' Last Revenge. There are plenty of allegations that there was no love lost between Mr. Padegimas and the Trustees. In fact, the image of an elderly Padegimas with puckish wings grinning down from celestial clouds and cursing the Auburn Trustees under his breath is a delightfully refreshing thought that makes life in Auburn Township nearly charming.

In spite of warnings that Adam Hall might be best dealt with by demolishing it and starting construction of a community building from scratch, Trustees Cavanagh, McCune, and Eberly insisted that the better option was to retain the original building and revamp it. More than ten years and many failed contractors later, Auburn Township residents are still paying. At this point the investment in Adam Hall far exceeds $2 million. Could the township recover that cost with the sale of building and land? We strongly doubt it.

We keep seeing the names of the same contractors: Blue Pines and Hummel Construction, though it seems apparent that these two are responsible for the latest construction errors that have resulted in a $1500 charge by Jim Dixon for a 2 ½ page report ($600 per page) and a $34,000 roofing repair job resulting from a lower bid than Arian Roofing (until one figures in the extra $3500 to replace plywood, remove and replace a defectively-installed cupola, and to create a vent that should have been installed in the first place.

Adam Hall has become the biggest windfall of the 21st century to a few “favorite” contractors who receive a lot of work from the Auburn Trustees in spite of shoddy practices and outcomes, as referenced by Dixon's latest pricey report for $1500. (Click here for the Dixon report) It is amazing that visual inspection of the building could not have uncovered construction flaws. For years a mere visual inspection of the roof made it possible to identify construction flaws, but Auburn Trustees apparently prefer high-priced gurus because they have so little knowledge themselves. In short, the Auburn Township Trustees (replace McCune's name with that of Michael Troyan since 2005) are spending taxpayer money with stupidity and abandon on Adam Hall deficiencies. The whole fiasco would make a brilliant black comedy starring Danny DeVito and be known as “Other People's Money” or “The Money Pit.”

Adam hall in winter
Observe the ice buildup at the rear of the building
In his latest research Dixon reveals that the shingles and roofing paper over the kitchen and restrooms of Adam Hall had to be removed. The biggest problem in so doing was that a large quantity of roofing paper was missing. Now what kind of conscientious contractor hired by the illustrious Auburn Trustees would neglect to put down roofing paper? It appears that a contractor who was accustomed to lack of supervision would and did dare such incompetence and fraud.

Besides missing plywood from beneath the shingles, plywood was fastened with as few as 5 nails, causing it to curl in spots. A ridge vent installed for the sole purpose of providing ventilation was so stupidly fastened as to prohibit ventilation in the kitchen and restroom areas. A cupola installed for the same purpose lacked any roof opening at all. Moreover, the entire plywood section in the kitchen/restroom area had to be removed, reinstalled, and properly fastened. An ice guard treatment was necessary. New shingles, replacing perfectly good ones, had to be installed with proper overhang, along with new flashing. New gutters and downspouts had to be installed the entire length of the building. Gutter expansion had to be installed to remediate the buckling gutters. New R14 fiberglass had to be shot into vacant areas under HVAC equipment, and missing baffles had to be installed. Moldy drywall in restrooms had to be replaced.

Even so, says Dixon's $1500 report, “there is no guarantee that this building will be ice free during the winter months.” Is such a statement meant to absolve him and Hummel Construction from any responsibility for structural infirmities at Adam Hall not yet figured out? With all the apparent flaws in workmanship, the bill to Auburn Township and its taxpayers increased by about $3500.

How many unemployed skilled workers would have been delighted for the opportunity to rehab Adam Hall? Instead, the botched jobs resulted in flagrant damage to Adam Hal and the loss of tens of thousands of dollars to unsuspecting taxpayers. So far Blue Pines, Petersen Construction, John Johnson, and Hummel Construction have had their shots at the building, all, apparently, with major structural damage to Adam Hall.

Do Auburn Trustees have any knowledge of “skilled” workers eager to do good work? We don't think so. We think that the same few contractors get repeat work to help the incumbents “win” votes. We think the Trustees and their “associates” in the Good Ole' Boy Network reek unwholesomely from too much time playing in the Auburn manure pit. When you think of Auburn Township, just remember Padagimas' Last Revenge.

HUMPTY - DUMPTY BROKEN ZONING
Published September 11, 2015

Although Auburn Township Trustees had announced at the August 17 Trustee meeting that the next meeting would be on Tuesday, September 8, the Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals meeting, regularly scheduled for the second Tuesday of every month, took precedence, drawing a number of interested residents and Mary Brigid Matheney of the Geauga Prosecutor's Office to Adam Hall to deliberate on two requests for variances, 15-05v and 15-06v. Both requests were unanimously defeated, 5-0 with members Kevin Graham and Brian Stewart not in attendance. Those who voted NO were Laura Beller, Robert Freebairn, Lewis Tomsic, Sr., David Parker, and Robert Pealer.

15-05v involved a variance for an agricultural building on less than 2 acres on Jacob Lane, an undedicated street of four houses, many of them in a visible state of disrepair. One of the residences has had a barn falling down, according to Google photos, since 2013. Michael Cardamon, Auburn's Assistant Fire Chief and a part-time patrolman for at least one other Geauga County community, lives across the street from the owners of the property subject to the variance request. In both Cardamon's and owner Ethan and Ashlee Kay's cases, an auxiliary building in the front yard, violates zoning code. Cardamon wound up being one of the most persistent critics, bemoaning the drop in property values to his residence, although his auxiliary building, an apparent zoning violation, would seem to be the most obvious cause of his low real-estate values on unpaved Jacob Lane. Residents, in the tone of NIMBYs, objected to the animal husbandry of Ashley Kay, who has raised pygmy goats for 14 years. Residents accused the Kays of everything from animal smells and sounds to goats' transmission of pneumonia in humans. The Kays, expressing their expectation of the judgment, reported that they would be contacting Geauga County Common Pleas Court upon BZA's finalization of the minutes and findings of fact, approximately October 7.

It was the second case, however, that brought forth a surprising monologue from BZA member Lew Tomsic, when property owner Stull of the property on East Washington Street and now of Cuyahoga Falls , expressed criticism of Auburn Township zoning in reference to the failed Auburn Corners area of town. Homeowners bordering on Lake LaDue, as a result of litigation by the City of Akron, were forced in 1993 to accept the need of a sewer system. The original premise was that Auburn Corners was a logical place for retail development. John Eberly, father of Auburn Trustee John Eberly, was a property owner in Auburn Corners after moving his family, including the then younger John, to property that he subsequently sold to Steven Cicciretto, a Bainbridge developer. The area was sometimes the subject of ludicrous speculation, for example, when Bernie Kosar, the darling of the Cleveland Browns, purchased property on 17806 Ravenna Road,Route 44 from Juanita Maxwell for $1,100,000. This purchase brought dreams of becoming rich to current residents who were burdened with massive sewer payments starting in 2000 to pay for the massive sewer development to alleviate the swampy conditions in Auburn Corners. As everyone knows, everyone who has purchased property in Auburn Corners, hoping to make money with a land sale, has been disappointed. Cicciretto is still stuck with the Eberly-parcel years after proposing a retail office development. A gas station planned for the corner of East Washington St./Ravenna Roads fell through. Auburn Township purchased the Maxwell property at Sheriff sale about 2012 and then pawned it off on Ken Abha, who bid a bit more money than Jason Wein of the hand-blown glass factory. It appears that Ken Abha's plans are just about dead. There is no development possible at Auburn Corners. Several residents in the area, over-burdened with sewer assessments, abandoned their properties or were foreclosed for mortgage/real estate taxes. Mr. Ken Gibb simply said, “Maybe the zoning is all wrong.”

Lew Tomsic. unusually impassioned, looked into the video camera and intoned that there is nothing for anyone to buy in Auburn Township because all purchases by Auburn residents are made on the way to and on the way back from work. Everyone works outside Auburn Township. Tomsic compared Auburn Corners' development to that along Kinsman Road in Newbury, where property owners' taxes were so expensive that they could not hang onto the property and where retail was driven out by “the stone people” and by landscape businesses. Now apparently, the only businesses that seem to be gravitating to East Washington Street in the Auburn Corners area are landscape companies, for example Eclipse Companies, that have gotten easy variances and that now are apparently upsetting residential neighbors with too much noise and storage of landscape equipment.

Lew Tomsic, quite emphatically, concluded that like Humpty Dumpty, Auburn zoning, reported by incumbent Trustee PJ Cavanagh to be the brain-child of his grandfather, Ignatius Cavanagh, is not working. It is irreparably broken.

Are you out there listening and watching the video, PJ?

EDITORIAL NOTE
Published September 15, 2015

After hearing (see video above) Lew Tomsic state that Auburn Corner's LaDue Sanitary Sewer System is the “only one in the county that loses money,” we checked with the director of Geauga County's Department of Water Resources. When presented with that quote, he explained that of 33 sewage plants in Geauga County, 17 are returning in a less positive way than anticipated when they were installed. LaDue is one of those 17. Though partially true, Lew Tomsic's comment about LaDue is not one based on research or fact.

TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE INSTALLATION
Originally Published October 13, 2013

Twas the night before installation,  and all through the farm,
Not a creature was stirring, not even the retired school marm.

The prepping equipment was placed by the chimney with care,
In hopes that U.P.S. would soon be there.

wind turbineTom and Diane were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of grand blades were turning in their heads..

Dianna in her kerchief, and Tom in his cap, had just settled in for a well-deserved nap.

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter…,
They sprang from their bed, to see what was the matter.

Away to the window they flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon, on the breast of new fallen glow, gave a luster of midday to objects below.

When, what to their wondering eyes should appear, but a broken down car with three trustees shaking with fear, with Prosecutor Birdie, so shady, so slick, we knew in a moment these people must be sick!

More clumsy than three legged donkeys they came, and the fiscal officer called them all by their name, On Eberly! On Cavahaugh! On Birdie! on Plavcan,! On Troyan! on Kitko! on Hardy! on Blitzen!

To the top of the road, banished forever from town, now, dash away, dash away, all of you clowns.

And then, in a twinkling, our horses began to stir under the barn roof,
Acknowledging delivery, there was prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

The UPS guy was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And Tom laughed when he saw him, inspite of himself.

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head, soon gave Diane to know she had nothing to dread.

Then he sprang to his truck, the team had delivered the goods.
And today the windmill will tower on the Wind in the Woods….

Diane and Tom heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight…
Happy Installation to all, and to all a good night!

Poem adapted by Judy K. Zamlen-Spotts

DOES BLAKE REAR SUFFER FROM PMS?
Published August 28, 2015

The August evening Commissioner meeting did not get off to a sterling start, apparently. Michelle Pemberton, the Director of the Geauga County Veterans, was a bit steamed about the present inadequate quarters relegated for Veterans' Affairs. So were the male counterparts who bemoaned the failure to construct a new building about 1 ½ years ago. At one point one of the gentlemen voiced the need for a .5 mill levy for a standalone facility.

Commissioner Spidalieri reported, “I am real disturbed. I want to move forward. We have a commissioner that wants to move a court to 470 Center Street [referencing the August 25 comments of Blake Rear]. My position has not changed. We promised you something [a new building] that we should deliver. They [the vets] need a building.” There was much applause from those in attendance.

Suddenly, Blake Rear appeared to come unglued, spurting . “I don't remember there was a promise made, Mr. Spid-a-li-eri. The Judge is your friend. . . You abstain on every other vote. . .Now that there is an audience, you are in favor of a building. . . We don't have the money!”

It was Auditor Frank Gliha, fresh from a successful Budget Commission hearing with the Geauga Park Board Commission on Monday, August 24, who saved the day for the Geauga County Veterans. “The Vets need a fund in which to add money. The money that is left over [at the end of the year] should go into a fund. We don't need people meeting in parking lots or McDonald's. This board is willing to tighten their belts. If we give $150,000 back each year, it goes into a building fund, not the general fund. If they save money to build a vision for the vets, it should be used. Once the money is approved by Columbus [State Auditor David Yost] we can get the building started.” All three Commissioners voted to authorize Gliha to ask for approval from the State Auditor to establish a building fund for the Geauga County Veterans.

“Frank and Dave[Lair] and Heidi[ Budget Director Delaney], is it this simple?” asked a calmer Rear.

An hour and six minutes into the Commissioner meeting, the veterans vacated. Director Dale Wedge gave a presentation to a nearly empty room on the achievements of the Emergency Management Agency. Commissioners Rear and Spidalieri, having hurled brickbats at each other, fell back to their old sounds of silence.

WHAT DIRTY SECRET ARE AUBURN TRUSTEES AND FISCAL OFFICER PROTECTING?
Published August 14, 2015


June 15th Trustee meeting
Back in June, when Trustee Cavanagh was asked how the township would pay for a $2.5 million service garage, he was evasive. It's not ethical, he said, to pay for that building out of Road and Bridge funds, which have been increased as a result of a new 2.0 mill levy that passed in November 2014. In the meantime, another road levy is coming up for election in November 2015. Thus far there has been no indication at public meetings of how to pay for this construction.

The Auburn Township Fiscal Budget of 2016 was presented by Fiscal Officer Fred May on Tuesday, August 11, 2015 before the Geauga County Budget Commission, consisting of Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz, Geauga County Treasurer Christopher Hitchcock, and Geauga County Auditor Frank Gliha. Hitchcock began the conversation with the observation

August 11th hearing before budget commission
that the reserves in the Auburn Township General Fund are 22 times what they were a year ago at the 2015 Budget Hearing, with implication that available moneys provided by the taxpayers are being sat upon. “Are you saving for something?” May was asked.

Perhaps May was the one who should have been asked in the first place how the township would pay for the extravagant road service building instead of Cavanagh. May quickly and enthusiastically noted that a good portion of the payment of the $2.5 million service garage, referenced as Auburn's Taj Mahal, would come from the General Fund with the balance coming from a bank loan. You may recall from an earlier commentary here that Mr. May had expectations of receiving a loan at a finance rate of 3.6%. Further checking by this source, however, revealed that the lending institution expected to offer a variable mortgage with the rate of 4.75-5.25% for the first five years and an unknown variable rate thereafter.

Which one of these accounts is the truth?

1) Auburn Township does not have any idea how it will pay for a $2.5 million 18.000 square foot building for the Road Department

2) Auburn Township will get financing for 3.6%

3) Auburn Township will get financing of 4.75-5.25%

4) Auburn Township has such a surplus amount of money in the General Fund that it will pay down the price of the building with accumulated funds.

One or more of these stories cannot be true at the same time that the other parts are true. Which one of your elected officials, Fred May, or P.J. Cavanagh, is lying or totally uninformed of the facts?

“WHERE DOES THE WATER GO?
Published July 30, 2015

With these words, long-time Auburn resident Ron Noah expressed his disappointment, concern, and disgust over a long-term problem with the culvert on Valley Road. The area of Valley Road and Washington Street was one of several areas that experienced massive flooding during and after a torrential rain during the early afternoon hours on Tuesday, July 14. The Auburn Trustees, perhaps gleeful that they might avoid criticism regarding a proposed service garage with estimated construction costs of $2,500,000 by focusing on widespread reports of flooding, including that experienced by Road Superintendent Emerick Gordon, soon realized that they themselves were in over their heads and risking drowning by humiliation as resident Noah continued his observations.

Mr. Noah observed that the culvert has been blocked for several years. “Where does the water go if the culvert is not working and there are no sewers? Water run-off went into my backyard.” On the other hand, Mr. Noah complained, “A road levy was passed,” implying that he was still experiencing problems with sewage back-up. Further, Mr. Noah reminded those present that when current Trustee John Eberly was running for the office, “he promised to fix the roads.”

Trustee Cavanagh unsuccessfully sought multiple times to exercise damage control by accusing Mr. Noah of changing the subject rather than sticking to the topic of the defective culvert on Valley Road. Nevertheless, Mr. Noah did not lose his temper or his cool, even laughing a time or two, but never backing down in his attack on unsatisfactory drainage problems inflicted upon him by unsatisfactory township conditions.

Trustee Eberly, who is particularly quick to sling oral insults at anyone who stands up to him, was atypically silent when Mr. Noah made reference to his campaign promises of yesteryear. This time he let Cavanagh take the heat over and over again. “After fifty years, it [the offending culvert on Valley Road] is silted.” Cavanagh murmured. Realizing he was outnumbered by attendees who were listening intently to Mr. Noah's comments, Cavanagh whispered, “It's a failure.” Had he made that observation several minutes earlier, he could have saved lots of wasted wind.

AUBURN TOWNSHIP'S TAJ MAHAL: ANOTHER SACRED COW?
Published July 27, 2015Service Garage

Auburn Township Trustees appear committed to go ahead with the construction of an 18,000 foot service garage. At least one “expert” who appears to benefit financially from such construction as a project manager has publicly reported to the elected officials that they can expect construction costs to reach the $2.5 million level so that a total of 7 Auburn Township vehicles can be washed inside the building and handily stored. In recent weeks when asked how the Township would finance such a luxurious undertaking, Trustee Cavanagh, expected to announce his candidacy at the beginning of August, replied that although legal, use of the Road and Bridge levy passed in November 2014 to finance the new building “would be unethical.” Though Cavanagh orally committed to providing public comments on the project, no public discussion has been permitted yet.

Interestingly, Fiscal Officer volunteered that Middlefield Bank provided a loan rate of 3.6% for 25 years. Contacted by this writer on Wednesday, July 22, a loan official at the Chardon office of Middlefield Bank verified that a 25-year loan for the financing of a municipal building is not a possibility, although a 20-year
variable rate instrument is. The same official indicated that the bank typically has a three-point spread over Treasury Bond rates so that 4.75% to 5.25% are reasonable rates to be expected when a municipal entity like Auburn Township is looking for bank financing.

Many have speculated that the real reason for the continued talks and prospective hiring of both a Project Engineer and a Project Manager to oversee the completion of an Auburn Township road service garage by spring 2016 enables elected township officials to place another levy in Auburn Township by November 2017 and enables the fiscal officer to increase the asset portion of the Fiscal Budget, thereby making it possible for Trustees and Fiscal Officer to glean bigger raises based on the dollar amount of the Fiscal Budget. For example, at the time of the fire levy that ultimately resulted in a never-ending tax payment for Auburn residents, trustees were able to increase their salaries, based on an excess of $3 million in assets in the Auburn Fiscal Budget of 2011. Leaner times have reduced the total assets in Auburn's coffers, what with Governor Kasich squeezing township coffers in an effort to brag how he has turned the State of Ohio into a lucrative war chest in his bid to become the latest flavor of the month as the 16th announced Republican candidate for President during the 2016 Cleveland Republican National Convention.

Many have seen the connection between this new road service building and the construction of the Taj Mahal in India by the Emperor Shah Jedran in 1632, when his beloved concubine, Mumtaz Mahal, died during the birth of the couple's 14th child. According to www.tucantravel.com, more than 22,000 artisans were involved in the 20-year construction of the Taj Mahal. Legend states that Shah Jedran instructed his forces to cut off the hands of the chief architect and his assistants so that they could never, ever complete another building of such grandeur as the Taj Mahal.

The voters of Auburn Township appear to be led by chains through their noses like domestic cattle as Auburn Trustees manipulate to achieve the construction of another extravagant building, come Hell or High Water. A hundred years from now will Auburn Township be a community in ruins except for the $2.5 million dollar Road Service Building with wash racks for Auburn's vehicles of distinction? Will the memorable building attract millions of tourists, as does the Taj Mahal, to marvel at the extravagances of three trustees who wanted to be honored forever by the extravagant construction of a Taj Mahal-like memorial? Will sacred cows wander the streets of Auburn and poop on the alabaster foundation while residents who can no longer afford their real-estate taxes abandon their properties?

AUBURN BZA'S TOMSIC, ABSENT FOR MAY 12 AND JUNE 9 MEETINGS, VOTES TO APPROVE THEM ANYWAY
Published July 14, 2015

Having attended every Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals meeting (second Tuesday of every month, with a few exceptions, at 7 P.M. at the Auburn Township Administration Building at the corner of East Washington Street and Auburn Road(, we are well aware of which BZA members attend regularly and which ones are frequently absent. Lewis Tomsic, Sr., is one BZA member who has spent much time being absent.

In a surprise appearance, however, Tomsic was present for the July 7, 2015, BZA meeting to sign off on minutes from the May 12 and June 9 meetings. Interestingly, Tomsic was not present for either of those meetings. It is fair to conclude, therefore, that he had no knowledge of the issues and proceedings for either meeting.

Listen to the events of the July 7, 2015, meeting as Brian Stewart (farthest left in blue, long-sleeved shirt) reads the motion to approve the minutes from May 12. Listen as Lew Tomsic (next to Stewart, dressed in white hair and in white tee-shirt) as he votes yes to approve the minutes of a meeting for which he was absent and obviously deserves no remuneration.

Listen further as Brian Stewart reads the motion to approve the events of the June 9 meeting,which approved (without the presence of Tomsic) the minutes and decision from BZA-15-04v, “a request for a variance submitted by Jennifer and Sean L. Kochert, from the Auburn Township Zoning Resolution Article 5.02(a) Accessory Buildings” for a storage building in the front yard at 18071 Cinnamon Trail.
Having been at that meeting we observed David Parker cast the only negative vote, with Bellar, Freebairn, Graham, and Stewart voting to approve .

BZA 15-04v appears to be in direct contradiction to the BZA case of February 2011.regarding the installation of a gazebo in a front yard for the benefit of a developmentally-delayed child waiting for a school bus during inclement weather.. BZA members, including Lewis Tomsic, charged that the gazebo could be transformed into an auto-repair shop; therefore, they said, it was verboten. That particular case necessitated the parents' need to file litigation in the Geauga County Common Pleas Courtroom of Forrest Burke and lengthy, expensive negotiations with Prosecutorial Assistant, Mary Brigid Matheney and the establishment of a prohibitively expensive monetary fund to guarantee the removal of said building when the minor child turns 16. We believe the decision on BZA 15-04v reflects the judgment of a “kinder, gentler” Board of Zoning Appeals. Has a higher authority barged in and sat on all the heads of the errant, unkind BZA of the era of 2008-2013? If so, it hasn't prevented the BZA from garnering tons of resentment among Auburn Township residents who had to put up with a lot of bullshit from power-hungry individuals who answered to the Auburn Township Trustees—- and still do, with an election nearing in 2015.

At any rate, listen as Lew Tomsic (again white hair and white tee shirt) votes to approve the proceedings from the June 9 variance hearing in which he never participated. Just more violations from an organization whose chairman at every meeting reads the old drivel about the BZA being “a quasi-legal” organization. Not many Auburn residents believe that BS any longer.

ADAM HALL FIASCO
Published July 5, 2015

Many Auburn Township residents have witnessed Adam Hall, the structure “given” to the township by its dying owner Mr. Padagemus, with ice stalactites extending from roof to within short distance from the ground. Photos of the building clearly demonstrate an extensive loss of heat, which encourages the build-up of phantasmagorical ice that is reminiscent of Santa's workshop at the Adam Hall in winterNorth Pole without the Christmas ho-hos.. For years contractor after contractor, including Gordon Petersen and John Johnson, have done remedial work which was supposed to correct structural shortcomings in the “gifted” building.

The latest contractor is Hummel Construction Company. Fire Chief John Phillips became aware of a process known as thermal imaging to assess the reason's for a building's extensive heat loss. Coincidentally, Jim Dixon, already the project manager for the new construction of the Auburn Fire Department, was privileged enough to undertake this thermal imaging under the name of the J. Dixon Company. Having already collected a fee for his work with the new fire department addition undertaken by Hummel Construction, Mr. Dixon prepared a 100 page report in May 2011, complete with 100 photo images of various locations within Adam Hall for the sum of $3750.

Page 2 of Dixon's report noted that there was “missing caulking at wood joints/intersections,” caulking “missing around the perimeters of windows, allowing moisture to enter and heat to exit,” “no caulking at all at the steel lintels above windows and steel door frames,” thereby causing “much heat loss in cold weathers.” In addition, Dixon visually observed, without even the necessity of the thermal imaging camera, “masonry weep tubes full of mortar” so that “no water or moisture can escape or drain, therefore causing freezing conditions in the winter.” Again, apparently with the naked eye and without needing thermal imaging, he observed “missing caulking at windows and doors,” and “a hole in the siding allowing moisture infiltration and also bees/insects to nest in the cavity.” All these defects, it appears, could have been observed by anyone with half a brain without dishing out a penny, but Auburn Township paid $3750 to its project manager for his special thermal imaging. Nice to be in the right place at the right time. . .

As for the building interior, Mr. Dixon reported on page 26. again without thermal imaging technology, “sufficient gaps at drywall intersections” to allow “heat loss in cold weather,” “broken electrical box covers, “interior wood trim. . . poorly fit against drywall.” Further, the $3750 thermal imaging report noted “drywall . . .cracked in several places.” How was it that Auburn trustees were unable to figure out the loss of heat that could be caused by visibly-cracked drywall but were willing to pay $3750 of taxpayer money to learn about the obvious?

On page 29 of the same report Dixon noted that the “interior wood trim is hanging loose at the ceiling/wall intersections.” Again, Dixon used his eyes and not his thermal imaging camera to report the obvious. Why did it require a $3750 report to observe bad workmanship? Further, why didn't the trustees hold the earlier contractors responsible for visually-obvious bad workmanship? Thermal image #29 was one of the few technological photos to indicate “missing insulation.”

On page 68 Dixon reported that: insulation has been moved at will and gaps left afterward.” This was yet another visual observation that did not require thermal imaging to conclude the obvious: shoddy workmanship for which trustees paid without even raising any questions. Are you this ineffective with your home-repair expenses or did the Adam Hall fiasco occur because trustees were spending other people's money?

“The roof deck has a triangular hole cut in the plywood and the roofing paper and shingles are just layered over the hole,” presenting a “serious safety issue for anyone walking the roof.” Apparently, this observation was made without the need for thermal imaging either. What kind of negligence would Auburn Township had been faulted with if a township worker had fallen through the roof while performing routine maintenance? Are Auburn Trustees capable of making any responsible decisions at all? It sounds to us as though shoddy workmanship, exacerbated by the lack of a building inspection before paying the ridiculous Adam Hall bills, demonstrate what boobs Auburn Township elected officials blatantly are.

“Air baffles are missing” or “are installed incorrectly,” wrote Dixon, apparently without needing a thermal image. In the truss space the access is “just a hole cut into the drywall” with “a piece of drywall laid overtop. . .as a make-shift closure.” Did this visual observation require a $3750 thermal image? Are the three trustees like the blind man trying to describe an elephant? Further, a mere visual inspection was all that was necessary to reveal “no insulation blankets installed over the light fixtures” so that there is “heat loss into the ceiling plenum space.” “The holes cut through the drywall for access were cut square for a round duct,” Dixon noted, “causing heat leakage.” Anyone with half a brain and a motive for getting the best workmanship could make the same observation.-- without a thermal knowledge or a $3750 bill.

So it becomes obvious after reading the $3750 thermal imaging report that trustees spent $3750 for an analysis that 20-40 eyesight could have provided. Your trustees appear to be idiotic fools with no regard for the value of residents' money. Is that what taxpayers want in elected officials? Only if taxpayers don't know about this kind of foolishness.

In spite of the obvious conclusions, Fire Chief Phillips was ecstatic about the wonders of Dixon's thermal imaging process accomplished about 90% with two eyes. More lucrative for Hummel Construction was the submission of a price quote, without even a competitive bid process, for $27,770 to seal duct work, insulate missing baffles, install “batt” insulation, spray foam, provide tenting of light fixtures, repair plywood, install weather stripping, caulk windows, paint bare window sills, caulk exterior light fixtures. Paint water-stained ceiling, do assorted interior caulking, wrap some cracked drywall with drywall tape, and insulate the attic door. Was it only coincidental that Hummel Construction had just constructed the Auburn Township Fire Department addition, resulting in a permanent levy without any expiration?

Okay, so that $27,770 job should have been the happy ending to the saga of constant repairs and the expenditure of good money on top of bad that identifies Adam Hall. Somewhere from his eternal rest is that the laughter of Mr. Padagimas at the incompetence of Auburn Trustees that we hear?

The never-ending saga of the Adam Hall white elephant apparently continues. At the May 18, 2015, Auburn Trustee meeting, Trustees referenced a bid from Hummel Construction (yes, the same Hummel Construction who made the $27,770 repairs in late 2011) for $31,050 to repair the roof yet again, apparently without a bid process, since, it was stated, the repair work was less than $100,000. In fact, without even mentioning the previous Adam Hall roof contract (for which he received a 5% commission as project manager), Jim Larson, who operates as the J. Dixon Company at P.O. Box 600, Newbury, Ohio 44065), mentioned the need to replace bad flashings, to install underlayment where there was none, to re-shingle, to repair gutters, to improve on insulation from heat loss, and to patch. Isn't that what Hummel Construction was supposed to do on the previous Dixon recommendation in 2011? The date of this second contract, for which Auburn taxpayers will pay Dixon $1552.50, dated May 15, 2015, is addressed directly to the J. Dixon Company.

Isn't this arrangement just cozy?

As an apparent afterthought, not mentioned at the June 1, 2015, Trustee meeting, but briefly mentioned at the June 15, 2015, Trustee meeting, a second estimate, addressed as “Re: Adam Hall,” Keith Arian, President of Keith Arian Company, apparently submitted a bid for the same work dated June 1, 2015. This bid was not addressed to the J. Dixon Company, but to the Auburn Township Trustees at 11010 Washington Street. How convenient the Arian bid became to the Hummel Construction Company when it came in at $39,480.00, over $8000 more than Hummel?

Doesn't this whole situation reek of rotting sewage? Why is it that in spite of all the evaluations submitted, especially by Jim Dixon, the Hummel work from 2011 is deficient? Shouldn't Hummel be re-doing the incomplete/shoddy work for free as part of a warranty?
in.

Doesn't it seem that one individual can collect a 5% bird-dog fee anytime he feels the desire to do so? So far, this situation appears to happen over intervals of four years or less. Are Auburn taxpayers prepared to pay for Adam Hall roof repairs and another project-manager fee in 2019?

Once upon a time, something was rotten in the State of Denmark. Today many things are rotten in the Township of Auburn. Stay tuned for more. . .

GEAUGA BOARD OF MENTAL HEALTH OVERRIDES QUESTIONS, RENEWS DIRECTOR ADAMS FOR THREE YEARS
Published June 18, 2015

In a meeting replete with cake and coffee and two different executive sessions for Board of Mental Health members, Director Jim Adams, long at odds with past and present Geauga County Commissioners, walked away with a contract that many in Geauga County view as a gross example of retire-rehire and a plum with regards to benefits, if not salary. The agenda, printed on blue paper nowhere listed even a single executive session, but many Geauga County voters have long observed that the Board of Mental Health frequently deviates from the format of its agenda. Adams has been in the hot seat for over a year, when in the spring of 2014, he came to Commissioners Samide, Rear, and Spidalieri to request supplemental funds which were subsequently denied. At 2015 meetings hosted by Commissioners Claypool, Rear, and Spidalieri, Prosecutor Jim Flaiz recused himself from representing either the Board of Mental Health or the Commissioners, so that both entities have needed to engage outside counsel. Adams reportedly commands the highest salary in Geauga County government with a $4 million insurance policy, a company car, and a very healthy (second) retirement account building up for him in the Public Employees' Retirement System (PERS). Adams was the subject of lengthy criticism at the June 16 Commissioners' Meeting when BMH member Jeff Kline came to address the Commissioners about his concerns over the BMH's apparent lack of prudence with regard to a new contract to be voted on at the June 17 meeting.

Jim Adams, a Geauga County veteran with more than 30 years of service and an ordained minister, appeared poised, courteous, and self-assured as he reacted calmly to questions and criticisms at the June 17 meeting with one board member absent and all issues resulting in a roll call of board members' votes.. In Agenda Item IV, Adams skillfully noted his success in contacting both the Ohio House of Representatives and Senate in his lobbying effort to receive more dollars for Chardon Schools to deal with the aftermath of shootings that occurred within Chardon High School in late February 2012.

During a report dealing with attorney update in the continuing conflict vis a vis Geauga Commissioners, the Board of Mental Health attorney, reported, “I prefer to advise the board in private,” being so clandestine as to avoid even dropping his name for the approximately 30 members of the public who attended. When asked by Commissioner-appointed Board member Jeff Kline if he had turned over all the public information requests made to the Board, same attorney appeared to avoid any direct answer. This observer heard neither a Yea or Nay.

During Resolutions 15-06-1, 15-06-2, and 15-06-3 all board members in attendance voted yes to approve. The first executive session lasted for about half-an-hour, followed by the presentation of Resolution 15-05-4, Board Chief Executive Officer's [Jim Adams'] Employee Agreement. Board member Kline voiced his desire to ask questions in a discussion of Resolution 4, resulting in confusion until it was decided to take a vote on the motion. Kline had proposed a motion to amend he resolution after noting that in his opinion, the contract for $111,741 represented a 10% pay increase for Adams from the previous $101,000. Kline also pointed out that his previous efforts to receive a copy of Adams' previous contract had not been successful despite repeated attempts. At the end of the vote, Jeff Kline voted No and two board members, at least partially in agreement with Kline's concerns, voiced an approval and an abstention. In the end there were 8 Yeas, 1 Abstention, and 1 Nay. The contract provides Adams with twelve months advance notice of possible termination or non-renewal and is effective until June 30, 2018, not June 30, 2020.

Present as an attendee was Commissioner Skip Claypool, who requested an official record of the meetings proceedings. Like many others, Claypool left the meeting when the second executive session was called so that the BMH lawyer could provide an update on legal issues. No action was expected from this second executive session.

GEAUGA PARK DISTRICT RULES INTERRUPTION “OUT OF ORDER”; INTERIM PARK DIRECTOR OROS NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
Published June 10, 2015

At its monthly public meeting on June 9, 2015, Geauga Park District overtly displayed three uniformed park rangers in plain view of the 75 attendees, who experienced a new seating arrangement of curved rows. For the first time ever attendees on the far left, the far right, the front, and the back could clearly visualize every action, every comment, every commenter. In the past, those in front could not experience the words or deeds of those at the back of the room without straining their necks.

The meeting began with a 30-minute public comment session to enable up to 10 comments of 3-minutes. Five individuals spoke: Ed Buckles, John Augustine, Frank __________(last name unclear), Sherry Churnin, and Diane Jones.

Buckles bemoaned the withdrawal by GPD of his right to make a presentation about his pet peeve, changes in the Park District's by-laws a year ago. He smugly referenced Commissioner Mary Ruth Shumway's acceptance of an employment situation with Judge Grendell, apparently hoping to get some kind of visible or oral reaction, but Shumway provided none. Then he whined about the injustice of him and his group not gaining the recognition and/or sense of self-importance that he thought they both deserved, and in the end commented about the contraction sleeve on his left arm: “I do not mean to imitate LeBron James. I injured myself and it hurts.” All in all, it was quite a narcissistic performance from what appears to be a tired, worn-out, elderly man in dire need of self-promotion.

In a comment that prompted Commissioner Shumway to advise him that he had “one minute left” in which to state his point and leave, John Augustine thumbed through four documents that he claimed were Pinebrook contracts regarding use and rights to the property by the Geauga Park District. He took his time, lingering to read select parts of the contract and then managed to squeeze out a vague question about whether park employees were even permitted on the property, the subject of a GPD purchase under a previous administration from the Western Reserve Land Conservancy for a reportedly lucrative sum of Geauga taxpayer money. Attorney David Ondrey, Commissioners, and Interim Park Director John Oros answered civilly. Commissioner Orndorff asked, “Mr Augustine, do you have some anxieties about Pinecrest Preserve.” Augustine's answer was a bit vague and unclear as he left the podium to return to monitoring his video recorder at the rear of the room, but now clearly visible to all as a result of the new seating arrangement.

The third commenter briefly requested the number of beavers that were killed on Geauga Park District property. The answer was subsequently presented by GPD employee Paul Pirrha at his appointed time.

Shelly Churnin, a member of the Protect Geauga Parks group and reportedly an attorney, launched into a criticism of the board for not recognizing, listening to, or respecting that group. She accused the Commissioners of being fearful of losing authority by granting PGP the recognition about which they regularly comment.

Diane Jones, sitting in the front left section, raised her hand to make what she termed “a brief and to the point” statement. In about 90 seconds she noted her positive experience with her husband Tom and two of their horses during a late May weekend at Beartown Reservation. There the Joneses encountered a party of visitors, some from Dayton, who extolled the wonderful facilities at the park, including the playground equipment for the children, who appeared to be most fully engaged with the tether ball. Jones noted the effective use of Beartown facilities.

About 4:45, Shelly Churnin, seated behind the Joneses, offered another comment that elicited a very fast rebuke. Churnin shouted out, “Point of Order!” to criticize the manner in which Commissioners could vote on an issue. Many readers will recall the use of “Point of Order” by Ed Buckles at the May meeting of the Geauga Park Board. Buckles' comment was an incorrect utilization of Roberts' Rules, as was Churnin's, because neither Buckles nor Churnin is a member of the board conducting Park District business. Further, Point of Order cannot be called without standing first to gain the floor. Attorney David Ondrey roundly criticized Churnin for her interruption and her improper use of Robert's Rules and indicated that interruption of the meeting would not be tolerated, an obvious reference to the three standing park rangers, authorized to remove anyone engaging in disorderly conduct.

Mr. Thomas Foster, of the Bass Lake Community, made a presentation of about fifteen minutes that explained the relationship between that organization, a homeowners' group and the GPD. Bass Lake, while known as a preserve, reportedly offers the public the opportunity to use Bass Lake water facilities. Mrs. Shumway questioned the selective nature of the Community, which differentiates it from the other public facilities owned by GPD, such as Big Creek, Penitentiary Glen, Observatory Park, etc. In the end, the Commissioners approved by 2-1 the motion to continue the Bass Lake agreement. Mr. Oros suggested a one-year agreement and Mr. Orndorff suggested a two-year agreement. The final motion was an approval of a five-year renewal of the agreement, effective July 1, 2015.

When the Commissioners returned from an Executive Session held at the end of the program, the motion to approve the appointment of long-time GPD employee, John Oros, as Executive Director.
By this time only a few attendees were left. An apparent question as to the legitimacy of the vote did not carry any weight.

The July meeting of GPD will involve a vote on Articles 4,5,6,8, 10, and 16 of the By-laws, tabled for action at the next full meeting.

“That's a Lot of Money”--Part 2
Published June 5, 2015

When Auburn resident Tom Jones asked a question at the June 1, 2015, Auburn Township Trustee meeting, the room became quiet so that all could hear the response. Jones asked how township trustees thought they would finance the proposed new/remodeled storage building for the road department. There seemed to be a little gasp as one or more individuals at the front table attempted to gather their thoughts. P.J. Cavanagh stated that although a legal procedure for townships, the transfer of funds from the Road and Bridge account, which has experienced an influx
of funds as a result of passage of a 2-mill levy in November 2014, to the road department to fund the new construction, is, he stated, “not ethical.”

Cavanagh added that the financing of the construction, which according to three different plans submitted to the trustees at the May 17, 2015, range in price-sticker from $1.8 million to $2.8 million of residents' tax dollars for an area as small as an additional 2000 square feet and as large as 18,000 square feet, is certain to be the subject of discussion at future public meetings.

We urge Trustees Cavanagh, Troyan, and Eberly to be mindful of events in neighboring communities in heir efforts to save residents money on needed projects. The Chagrin Valley Times in its June 4, 2015, edition handily outlines two such scenarios, as reported by Joan Dimerjian. “Russell, Bainbridge turning recycled paper and cardboard into cash,” on page 6 reports that Russell is collecting between $7200 and $8400 per year from paper and cardboard recycling bins. Bainbridge thus far has collected approximately $3100 so far in 2015, with collection of the recyclables four times per year at a rate of at least $30 per ton paid by River Valley Paper Company of Akron to both municipalities. We would like to remind Auburn Township Trustees that Auburn Township had such an opportunity several years ago, but because Mr. Eberly was so adamant about chastising residents for dumping and other apparently unscrupulous behavior, the Auburn recycling bins were removed and road department personnel went so far as to rummage in the trash for names and addresses so that those residents who appeared to be “violating” some code of ethics with their deposits at the recycling bins could be tracked down and humiliated.

We have observed recycling operations, not only in Bainbridge and Russell, but also in Newbury and Chester, where the recycle bins are well-used by residents and non-residents alike. These individuals are pleased to re-purpose their recyclable paper and cardboard so that Geauga communities can realize cash for needed projects. Fiscal Officer Chuck Walder told Ms. Dimerjian,” I view that [the revenue over the past years that will help pay for a $20,000 Russell parking lot paving project] as a win-win situation/ The taxpayer won't pay and that's a good thing.” Had Auburn Trustees in general and Mr. Eberly in particular been paying attention to such matters, they could have gotten some positive press and good public relations in the local paper, as well. As Mr. Walder further remarked, Everyone who uses the recycling containers] is being a good steward to the environment.”

The second event that Auburn Trustees should note is the ongoing work of Bainbridge Trustees in expanding the Bainbridge road department storage building. “Bainbridge plans new offices for service garage,” page 8 of The Chagrin Valley Times, reports that at the May 26, 2015, trustee meeting Architect Sean Barbina of DS Architecture in Kent provided a plan for a 3000 square foot addition to the current Haskins Road service garage at a cost of $600,000. The new addition will include a new lunchroom, locker rooms, and a meeting room. The cost of the project is to come from investment funds stewarded by Bainbridge Township, and not additional taxpayer monies. Had Auburn Township Trustees in general and Trustee Cavanagah in particular been paying attention to the wallets of Auburn Township residents, such stewardship funds gathering interest in saving institutions for Auburn Township could be well-put to building improvement projects, such as the new road department building.

Over the years, Auburn Township has had opportunities to serve its residents. Whether the rationale not to do so can be attributed to ego, vanity, attempts to embarrass residents, or just plain power politics, Auburn Trustees have no reason to be proud of their current money-managing practices with regard to wise use of space and anticipated expansion.

Fire Chief Phillips' statement of May 17 regarding the proposed $1.8-$2.8 million expenditure bears repetition and a final note of advice. “That's a lot of money.” If Auburn Trustees are paying attention now, do you suppose that contact with Bainbridge and Russell elected officials and Architect Sean Barbina are valuable ways to finally serve Auburn residents in a more fiscally responsible manner?


POINT OF ORDER
Published June 1, 2015

The introduction of citizen Skip Claypool as a presenter of a program entitled “Land Conservancies—the Dark Side” at May 12 Geauga Park District elicited interruption from a familiar attendee. Weeks before, Mr. Claypool had gotten pre-approval for his presentation as an alternative point-of-view to clarify a presentation made by Western Reserve Land Conservancy Vice President, Keith McClintock. on April 14. There had been no interruption from any attendees during that earlier presentation; in fact, a large contingency, seemingly on cue, had applauded the ability of WRLC to gain huge amounts of financial backing from grants and foundations in order to purchase large tracts of land which WRLC attests are forbidden to development for perpetuity. At the present meeting Ed Buckles, under the guise of Robert's Rules of Order, called out “Point of Order, please” from his seat, apparently catching the entire GPD board and its legal counsel off-guard.

When asked about his Point of Order, Buckles expressed his objection that as a citizen, Claypool was being allowed time to present, when he was not permitted more than three minutes as a citizen to address the GPD and had already repeatedly been refused the opportunity to make his own presentation on changes made to the GPD bylaws a year ago. Without prior guidelines on time-limits expressed to Mr. Claypool, GPD Chairman Shumway now informed him that his presentation was to last ten minutes. Additionally, she buckled on the spot when in about the same breath she granted Citizen Buckles ten minutes at the June 9 public meeting to make a presentation about changes in the GPD by-laws. Those who attend GPD meetings regularly know that Mr. Buckles and others have repeatedly taken the outspoken initiative to address their perceptions, including changes in the bylaws.

Mr. Buckles made GPD buckle by misusing proper protocol. Robert's Rules of Order refer to proper etiquette for the smooth and efficient operation of meetings. In fact, the proper procedure to make a Point of Order is to gain the floor by standing and saying, “I rise to a Point of Order.” The presiding officer acknowledges the procedural error pointed out by that Point of Order by simply correcting it without further incident. Instead, Mr. Buckles' audacious ploy permitted him to verbalize his latest accusation, that he was being denied equal opportunity. For those who have been watching carefully, there appears to be clear-cut evidence that Mr. Buckles and others are fond of attesting that their ideas are verified fact. Some may remember George Orwell's Animal Farm, which informed about equality that “the pigs are more equal.”

The Open Meetings Act guarantees citizens' attendance at public meetings, but not oral comment. If public comment is worth preserving for all who are equal, including the pigs, GPD commissioners need to be up on their game. Otherwise, the cacophony that attempts to drown out reasonable comment may force the legitimate cessation of public comment altogether.

“THAT'S A LOT OF MONEY!”-----Auburn Fire Chief John Phillips
Published May 20, 2015

Some Auburn Township residents may remember the name of Jim Larson, He was the project director for the construction of Auburn Township's new addition to the fire station several years ago. Some folks have said that the construction of the fire department went flawlessly. Jim Larson, it appears, is back for another go on building improvements for Auburn Township. If you thought the new fire station involved a chunk of change, you will want to read this account.

Larson noted that he had made a thorough study of options for improvement of Auburn's road garage. He was involved with making an accounting of equipment inventory, studying the existing building, praising the “great shape” of plows, trucks, and other equipment. In all, he said, the existing building is “tired.” It needs a new bathroom and lockers. It also needs space to store the
township's five trucks. Larson stated his admiration of road director, Emerick Gordon, who viewed the service garages (21,000- 40,000 square feet) in several townships. Larson identified three different options-- all within a price range of $1,8 million to $2.8 million. These are not bids, just ballpark estimates with $1million worth of wiggle room for Options A, B, and C.

As described by Larson, Option A will provide space for seven trucks with an addition of 4000 square feet to the original 4000 square feet west of the original structure. The estimated range of cost is $2,310,152 to $2,867,200.

Option B will be a complete renovation of 4000square feet with the reconstruction of 1000 square feet. The range of estimated cost is $2,154,328 to $2,634, 300.

Option C is the new construction of 18,000 square feet to create a brand-new building that includes a runway (what is a runway?) and two overhead doors with new paving and new roof. The range of cost is $1,800,900 to $2,104,700.

Trustee Eberly stated the need for form to follow function with a facility to bring in salt, to cover five trucks at a time, to enable a safe flow of emergency vehicles, to stockpile materials, to provide a wash bin and a lift. According to Trustee Troyan, the building of a new facility is cheaper than renovation with current bathrooms in bad shape.

Resident Dale Ryan of Stafford Road asked for the costs of each of the three options. With Trustee Cavanagh's identification of these costs, Fire Chief probably made the most astute observation at an Auburn Trustee meeting in a very long time: “That's a lot of money.”

An important question to be considered is,” What are you going to do with 18,000 square feet. . .Build another Walmart?” Better yet, ” How are we gonna pay for another $1.8 to $2.6 million?” Didn't Auburn Township just pass another 2 mills for roads? Didn't the residents of Auburn and Bainbridge just pass a school levy? Does it sound as though the area has money oozing from the cracks in Auburn roads? Auburn residents of late have abandoned their homes and properties in record numbers due to tax and bank foreclosures. Another 100+ acres of land are owned by the township, without taxes collected on them. So who is going to pick up the slack to pay for all these “new and great improvements”? Could it be those people whose heads are still above water? We know some Auburn folks who haven't paid their county taxes in quite awhile and might be next for sheriff's auction . . . Maybe the rest of us can see to it that these unfortunates can set up housekeeping in a brand new 18,000 square foot building amidst seven trucks, a wash-rack, and a lift. It will have a new roof and siding to keep out the rain and snow. Some folks close to homelessness will value these improvements, don't you think?


IS THE GEAUGA PROSECUTOR RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION ALREADY?
Published May 15, 2015

As the May 12 Geauga Commissioner meeting unfolded, two of the three Commissioners were in fine bantering shape, flexing their verbal prowess while two contentious situations, both involving Probate/Juvenile Court Judge Timothy Grendell, formed the backdrop of a drama that requires them “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” For the uninformed, Tim Grendell is submitting to the Commissioners legal bills incurred in an action brought by Republican chairwoman, Nancy McArthur. Additionally,Grendell allegedly refuses to talk to the Commissioners unless and until he receives an apology from Commissioner Blake Rear, who compared Grendell's handling of money to actions taken by “drunken sailors.” Further, the Commissioners are embroiled in a dispute over the issuance of surveys covering allegedly intrusive and invasive topics by the Geauga County Board of Mental Health. The Commissioners are currently considering the engagement of an outside legal firm with the prospect of litigating against the Board, with the possibility/probability that the B of MH will engage its own legal counsel, both bills to be borne by the Commissioners, ultimately the county taxpayers. Meanwhile, Geauga Prosecutor, caught in the middle, cannot serve either entity because of conflict of interest. Does it sound a bit like former Sheriff Red Simmons engaged in the War of the Worlds against the Geauga Commissioners of a dozen years ago?

The May 12 conversation dealt with one of two legal firms considered by the Commissioners, Walter Haverfield. While Commissioners Rear and Claypool waxed enthusiastic over the skills of this law firm, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri was painfully silent, twiddling with his fingers and giving the impression that there were a million other places he would rather be than behind the Commissioners' table.

Present for the jocularities was Prosecutor Flaiz, talking as though election season were at hand.
He reminded those present that hiring an attorney as an in-house employee “flies in the face of Ohio Revised Code. . . You can contract your own attorney but the annual expenditure cannot exceed $114,000.” He agreed that there have been an unusual number of conflicts between county departments that have come up recently. “In the last year and a half, we have had ten incidents.”

Claypool expressed concern about language in the contractual agreement with Walter Haverfield that states the use of that firm can come into play only in a conflict-of-interest situation. “I would like to change the wording to include the situation of the Prosecutor being stretched.”

Blake Rear countered, “I like the way this document is written. This provides us with a firm that knows us.”

Clarifying, Flaiz added, “You can terminate the agreement at any time. There is no risk about a twelve-month commitment—like trying to get out of Direct TV.” This comment brought forth widespread laughter as a form of comic relief.

“I'm not hearing anything from Ralph,” said Claypool.

Spidalieri stumbled uncomfortably at first, invoking many sentences beginning with “at the end of the day.” “At the end of the day, if we put money into an additional person. . .I went to bat for you [Flaiz] two years ago. At the end of the day, if we can remove your office of some of the stress. . . my goal is. . .to relieve you of some of the work load. . . I do know you are swamped.”

Flaiz appeared to enjoy himself as he warmed up to his topic. “We [the Prosecutor's Office] work hard to service all our clients responsibly because we are a taxpayer-funded organization. . .We have experienced most of our growth on the criminal side. . . We had the drug prosecutor two years ago. . .The civil side has not grown, but it's a balancing act. I have to understand that I am dependent on tax dollars. . .taking as little money from residents as we need.” These statements appeared to be a ploy to distance himself from the operations of the Geauga Prosecutor's Office under the twenty-year leadership of David Joyce. In the time period between 2009-2012, Assistant Prosecutor Matheney had the go-ahead from then Prosecutor Joyce to harass and litigate at least two agricultural entities in the county, specifically in Auburn Township. Although Flaiz made no reference to his predecessor or to personalities that he inherited from Joyce, it was clear to this observer that he chose to distance himself from that other Prosecutor's Office, especially with an election looming in 2016.

Flaiz continued to praise the actions of his office. “ A private law firm working on the RID situation last year would have cost six figures. We saved the county $7 million. I always welcome feedback. A big law firm doesn't have to be accountable for its expenses. I have to balance the use of tax dollars.”

Commissioner Spidalieri took more time to enlighten those in attendance: “At the end of the day I 100% meant that hiring in-house would have saved us money.”

Flaiz, still campaigning: “In the rare instance where our clients have to hire outside counsel, we always look good afterward.”

Claypool brightened with joy as he thought about an idea for Flaiz: “Possibly we could staff you with a dedicated attorney.”

Flaiz: “We would still have a conflict. . . . Up until the point of litigation we have been very successful [at resolving inside conflicts]. At some point if you can't resolve a situation peacefully, you need outside attorneys. . . You guys [the Commissioners] aren't so bad.”

Feeling more comfortable, Ralph Spidalieri continued, [Hiring outside attorneys] “is like going to a dentist for a broken foot. Is the firm going to be the [right] specialist? You [Flaiz] are our representative. . .We don't know what conflicts the firm we hire may have. We still need to talk to you to see if they are the right surgeons. I'm not really in favor of this situation.”

Flaiz: “On the civil side, we have some bizarre situations to deal with. Walter Haverfield would meet your needs . . .They are expensive.”

Claypool: “Todd Hunt specializes in the area that we are looking at. He has represented Bainbridge. These are very good rates. . . This law firm is one of a few that deals with government processes.”

Rear: “If you think a good attorney is expensive, hire a bad one.[Laughter] Litigation is inevitable. . . As the Walter Haverfield letter is presented, there is no [dollar] cap.”

Flaiz: “We left that blank. . .I presumed the Board would set some number. With your two issues, you're going to get to $50,000 before the end of the year.”

Rear: “I verbally move that we move forward. We can do the motion on this, sign, and then get a new document.”

Flaiz: “You are moving to adopt the resolution approving Walter Haverfield with a limit of $50,000.

The vote was called for, each Commissioners voting Aye.

In the meantime, the last few days have brought forth unconfirmed rumors that the office of Judge Timothy Grendell has initiated new litigation with a different attorney, bringing the number of litigious issues that Commissioners may be forced to pay on Grendell's behalf to three. Prosecutor Flaiz is watching these actions from a distance, without having his office or taxpayer money involved.
It strongly appears that he will seek re-election as a Republican for the office of Geauga County Prosecutor without falling back on the actions of that office under David Joyce.

Smart move. . .

“A POINT OF ORDER”?---NOT!
Published May 13, 2015

The Geauga Park District Board of Commissioners held its monthly public meeting on Tuesday, May 12. Although we had to leave before conclusion ot the meeting, we have been told by reliable sources that the meeting did not adjourn until 6:30, three hours after its inception. Gratefully, it was a well-attended session so that many people from the general public can determine whether a certain group of attendees that are members of Protect Geauga Parks are attempting to manipulate events and outcomes.

Half an hour before the meeting began we were already seated, anticipating a large participation by attendees. We were surprised to see a large tall woman in a black hat approach Geauga Park Board Commissioner, Mary Shumway until she was very physically close to the latter. The person in the hat was Geauga Horsemen's Council and Protect Geauga Parks member (per the PGP Facebook page), Joy Keco of Bainbridge. We heard her loud remarks, though we did not hear any from Mrs. Shumway; we heard Keco make reference to Mrs. Shumway's need to “attend church on Sunday.” The commissioner wisely laughed off what appeared to be confrontational behavior from the other woman, who has been erroneously reported by one weekly media as “a petite five-foot-two.”

As background, we can report that at the April 21 special meeting of the GPD, Keith McClintock, a Hambden Township trustee and a vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, presented a power-point program to identify the WRLC's purposes and missions in northeast Ohio, specifically identifying parcels of land obtained by the WRLC from private property owners. After their acquisition by WRLC, these parcels carry conservation easements which limit their development from this time forward.

Prior to that meeting, Chester resident Walter Skip Claypool, more familiar to most Geauga County residents as County Commissioner, had sought and received permission to address the GPD about his research on the impacts of land acquisitions by land conservancies and conservation easementsupon county taxpayers, voters, and property owners as a result of learning about Mr. McClintock's prospective appearance. The date that the Geauga Park District Commissioners decided upon was May 12.

Being the third item on the May 12 agenda, Mr. Claypool had no sooner been introduced as a presenter when attendee Ed Buckles, better known as a leader within the Protect Geauga Parks, a 501c3, which appears to be a political action committee (PAC) which has engaged in creative fund-raising and request for donations from the public, interrupted from his seated position., “Point of order, please,” he called from his seat, interrupting the introduction of Mr. Claypool to those in attendance. It is, we believe, most inappropriate that Mr. Buckles, who we would conclude has had plenty of exposure to public forums, was not astute enough to know the CORRECT procedure to establish a point of order, as identified in Robert's Rules. It would have been appropriate for Mr. Buckles to stand up and address the presiding officer in charge of the meeting. It could have been as simple as stating, “ Mr./Madame Chairman, I rise to a point of order.” Such a statement would have alerted the presiding officer immediately to abandon a violation of procedure established by Robert's Rules for the orderly progression of a meeting.

Instead, Mr. Buckles commented that it was unfair for Mr. Claypool to have time to present his topic when he himself has been repeatedly refused by the Board of Park Commissioners to address them for any length of time in excess of three minutes. In response to Mr. Buckles erroneous ploy of “point of order, please,” Mrs. Shumway appeared a bit flustered and drew two conclusions: 1) Mr. Claypool, previously under the impression that his time was unlimited to present his research, was now limited to ten minutes, and 2) Mr. Buckles was to have ten minutes at the June 9 GPD meeting to present “his” topic of the current GPD Board of Commissioners' change of by-laws. We noted a considerable amount of inappropriate interruption of others by Mr. Buckles when, apparently, he did not have proper authority to do so.

Many observers have become aware of unreasonable tactics by Mr. Buckles and other participants at GPD meetings who openly identify themselves as members of Protect Geauga Parks. Nevertheless, they are not the only individuals for whom we have criticism. Mrs. Shumway's quick acquiescence to Mr. Buckles attempt to mimic Robert's Rules, perhaps as a result of being caught off guard, short-changed the rights of other Geauga County citizens. In this case, Mr. Buckles was ALLEGING that a rule had been broken (his not being allowed more than three minutes to speak to the gathered forum as a member of the audience) when in fact there was no tenet of Robert's Rules that had been infringed. Although we pity Mr. Buckles' weak attempts to identify himself as a parliamentarian, we still must criticize the entire Board of Commissioners,especially, Jeff Orndorff as well as GPD counsel David Ondrey. Both Mr. Orndorff and Mr Ondrey are seasoned attorneys, well-established, we have to conclude, with the practices of Robert's Rules. It seems to us that the entire Board of Commissioners and their legal counsel were not clear-headed enough to know that they were being used by a member of the community with more audacity than expertise. Because the ploy worked this time, it may likely be tried again.

Will those in charge of the meeting know what to do? The public business of the Geauga Park Board must not be to satisfy the objectives of individuals who can resort to mental and physical bullying to destroy the civil process for everyone interested enough to attend and to learn about the goals of the Geauga Park District. We trust that the Park Board will be on their game the next time out instead of trying to give away the farm to folks, who like the Pigs in Animal Farm, declare that everyone is equal, but the Pigs are more equal.

We are personally very frustrated by he attempts of Mr. Buckles and others in the Protect Geauga Parks group to label other participants' actions as unfair and political when those actions and opinions differ from their own. The Second Amendment gives all attendees the right to attend public meetings, but the constant personal attacks that many from the public have heard issue from the mouths of those who identify themselves as members of Protect Geauga Parks may justifiably unleash a backlash of withdrawal of the right to any public comment whatsoever.

DO GEAUGA TOWNSHIPS CARE ABOUT AGRICULTURE?
Published May 1, 2015

Geauga Township Association (GTA), in conjunction with Northeast Counties Farm Bureau (Geauga, Lake, Trumbull, Ashtabula Counties) and Ohio Representatives John Patterson and Sarah LaTourette, presented a workshop for trustee-members of all sixteen Geauga Townships on April 30, 2015, at the Burton campus of Kent State University. First Energy Vice President, Dave Dillon, was in attendance. So was Ohio Representative and former history teacher, John Patterson from Jefferson, Ohio. Ty Kellogg, head of the local Farm Bureau in Orwell, brought a generous supply of barn-busting-good muffins and hot coffee. Brandon Kern, from the Columbus headquarters of Ohio Farm Bureau, came ready with a slide presentation to cover a hot topic, Agritourism and the challenges presented to it by township zoning.

Currently there are two new bills in the Ohio Legislature: Senate Bill 75 and House Bill 80. Senate Bill 80 was introduced by Senators Jones and Peterson, the latter a long-time farmer. Cosponsors are Senators Gardner, beagle, Balderson, LaRose, Manning, Eklund, Patton, Cafaro, and Gentile. House Bill 80, bearing the same language as Senate Bill 75, was introduced by Representative Burkley, with Cosponsors Blessing, Boose, Brenner, Grossman, Hackett, Hall, Hayes, Hill, LaTourette, Koehler, Maag, Retherford, Ruhl, Scherer, and Zeitwanger.

Agritourism, as defined by both bills, “means an agriculturally related educational, entertainment, historical, cultural, or recreational activity, including you-pick operations or farm markets, conducted on a farm that allows or invites members of the general public to observe, participate in, or enjoy that activity.” “Land devoted exclusively to agricultural use” means “land . . .which, during the three calendar years prior to the year in which application is filed under section 5713.31 of the Revised Code” is devoted exclusively to commercial animal or poultry husbandry, aquaculture, algaculture. . apiculture. . .field crops, tobacco, fruits, vegetables, nursery stock,. . . timber.”

Further,”the construction or installation of an energy facility, as defined in section 5727.01 of the Revised Code, on a portion of a tract, lot, or parcel of land devoted exclusively to agricultural use shall not cause the remaining portion of the tract, lot, or parcel to be regarded as a conversion of land devoted exclusively to agricultural use if the remaining portion of the tract, lot, or parcel con tinues to be devoted exclusively to agricultural use.”

What is the proper role of township zoning as stated in Senate Bill 75 and House Bill 80? Each is a bill “to amend sections 303.21, 519.21, and 5713.30 and to enact section 901.80 of the Revised Code to limit the authority of a board of county commissioners or board of township trustees to prohibit agritourism through zoning, to apply current agricultural use valuation to land used for agritourism for property tax purposes, and to establish immunity in a civil action for agritourism providers.”

The major premise of the Ohio Farm Bureau presentation was to point out the unequal treatment that farmers involved in agritourism receive across the state and to highlight the attempts by many township trustees and zoning inspectors to exert illegal and unfounded power through illegal zoning over farmers. Representative Patterson, pinch-hitting for Representative LaTourette, who was attending another function, expressed the critical need for these bills to pass and therefore assist Ohio farmers. Representative Patterson expressed his personal optimism that both bills would indeed prevail and prevent townships from exerting excessive and illegal power over farms within their borders. Thank you, Representative Patterson, for your extensive knowledge of and passion for Ohio farmers.

We have saved the most important concern for last. How many township trustees attended to get the latest update on the potential threats posed to agritourism by zealous and ambitious zoning inspectors taking orders from zealous and ambitious trustees? Trustee Jerry Mitchell, himself a Farm Bureau member and farmer from Troy, and Jim Dvorak, Burton Township Trustee, were in attendance. What happened to the elected representatives of fourteen other townships in Geauga County? Doesn't it seem fair to conclude that the other township trustees could care less about farmers and agritourism within their borders? Remember that fact when it comes time to vote for a trustee from your township in November.
ANOTHER CASE OF ZONING INSPECTOR ERROR?
Published April 22, 2015

In spite of his announcement at the Auburn Trustee Meeting of April 6, 2015, that the next Board of Zoning Appeals meeting was canceled because “the people did not get their paperwork in,” Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko, along with several others, showed up at 7 P.M on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, to hear BZA-15-02v and BZA-15-03v, two requests for variances filed by Glenn and Lori Smith, regarding their property located on Edinboro Lane. A number of neighbors from the homeowners' association, along with developer Jerry Petersen of Chardon were present. Also present were BZA secretary Jane Hardy and BZA members Stewart, Parker, Pealer, Freebairn, and Bellar. Until the appearance of Mr. Pealer, Mr. Stewart announced that with four BZA members in attendance, a tie vote would constitute failure for the variances to be approved.

Glenn was asked to explain the situation. He noted that using markers on the property, he measured off the distance stipulated in Auburn Township Zoning Resolution Article 5.02(a), regarding accessory buildings. The language is as follows: “Detached accessory buildings may be located in side or rear yards at least 15 feet from any lot line or other building on the same lot. . . for a constructed building. Mr. Smith was engaging in preliminary steps in order to have constructed on his property a barn that he explained would be used for community gatherings. At the time that he completed the designation of the location of the building by digging holes in the ground.

According to Mr. Smith and corroborated by Zoning Inspector Frank Kitko, Mr. Smith called the township office at 440-543-7028, he reached Office Administrator, Nancy Dolezal. According to Mr. Smith, when he asked Mrs. Dolezal to arrange for a zoning inspection by Mr. Kitko to get approval for the location of the holes, Mrs. Dolezal told him that Auburn Township has nothing to do with the holes and that Mr. Smith would have to contact Geauga County Building Department. That was exactly what Mr. Smith did and the Geauga County Building Department came out and apparently approved the holes, which were to provide the outline of the building.

With that approval the construction began on the barn in November 2014. At a certain point in time, contiguous neighbors invited the Smiths to a meeting at the neighbors' home. The neighbors expressed their concern for and disapproval of the continued construction. The building was only seven feet from the property line. Construction ceased in February 2015.

As if this were not enough of a problem, the discovery was made after the beginning of construction of the structure that it was higher than 25 feet. Auburn Township Zoning Resolution Article 4.03(h) states,”no accessory building shall exceed a height of 23 feet.”

After a lengthy discussion which featured the disapproval of the contiguous neighbor over the expected loss of resale value to her property, as well as varied comments from other neighbors, Mr. Rob Pealer voiced his suggestion for practical solution to the dilemma. He suggested a property swap or landscape screening as a compensation for the inconvenience.

Since there was no follow-up discussion, there was a call for a vote on both requests for variances in chronological order. The BZA voted 5-0 against approval of the variance for seven feet instead of the fifteen feet from the property line (BZA-15-02v). This result would require moving the structure at the owners' cost to the required fifteen feet. The vote on the second variance request (BZA-15-03v) resulted in a no vote from Parker, but a yes vote from Pealer, Bellar, Stewart, and Freebairn, thus permitting the height of the building to remain over the zoning-dictated height of 23 feet. The BZA will not make their decision final until May 12. The Smiths may appeal the BZA opinion on BZA-15-02v by filing an administrative appeal in Geauga County Common Pleas Court.

If Office Administrator Dolezal had taken the time to ask Zoning Inspector Kitko to return Mr. Smith's call, instead of supplying the decision that the inspection was a matter for the Geauga County Building Department, the whole question of proper location of the building could have been resolved with only the need to dig the holes in the location which Mr. Kitko could specify with his tape measure. Instead, Kitko did not learn of the misunderstanding/miscommunication until there was serious investment by the owners.

Mr. Kitko has been charged with zoning inspector error before, in spite of being termed by the Auburn Trustees as “The Dean of Zoning.” A real dean would make certain that he had completely understood the nature of a request by a resident seeking building approval instead of leaving the responsibility for such a critical decision to an underling.

Could this be yet another case of Auburn Township Zoning Inspector error? When is it time to bring in new expertise to resolve the serious problems that result from unacceptable miscommunication? What would you do if you were the property owner who has been the unfortunate loser in this case?

REPUBLICAN PARTY LEADERSHIP OBJECTS TO MEDIA COVERAGE OF PUBLIC MEETING WHILE AVOIDING PUBLISHING CONTACT INFORMATION FOR PUBLICLY ELECTED COMMITTEE MEMBERS
Published March 22, 2015

At its public meeting on March 21, 2015, at the Geauga campus of Kent State University in Burton, the Republican Party met from 9:30-11 A.M. to discuss amendments to the county Republican platform. Amidst brisk and healthy discussion, two amendments were handily passed by the membership. A third topic was tabled and ultimately withdrawn. A Right to Life statement, which passed 35-13, included the supplementary statement that in regards to yet unborn human life, the party philosophy “precludes termination of that life.”

The second statement expressed disapproval of surveillance of person and property. It also passed with a handy majority.

The third issue, introduced by Michael Petruziello of Chester requested that phone numbers, tangible addresses, and e-mail addresses be made available as means of contact for Republicans listed as members on the Geauga County Republican Party. He noted that this information was available at the Geauga County Republican website in the past..Sitting at the front table with officers of the party, Jane Zimmerman of the Geauga County Board of Elections reported that such information is not part of the public record. Charlie Butters opined that the issue of providing this information is too complicated at this time. Party Chairwoman Nancy McArthur expressed interest in providing information without invading the privacy of any members. Ms. Brady responded, “I don't think anyone needs to know where I live.” As 11 A.M. approached, Mr. Petruziello withdrew the motion, suggesting that the topic may come up again for discussion.

Because the meeting was promoted as a public meeting, most members of the public gravitated to seating designated as “public” in the last row. Voting members of the party were instructed to sit in the first four rows. Exceptions were three members of the public. John Karlovec, familiar to many as the editor of the Geauga County Mapleleaf, sat in the second row and took photos. Joe Koziol, a reporter for the Geauga Courier, sat in the third row next to Geauga County Auditor, Frank Gliha. In the second row sat Jim Dvorak, well-known as a Democratic opponent to former Commissioner Mary Samide in an unsuccessful bid to fill a two-year term vacated by the retirement of another Commissioner. Although Dorothy Stang, a voting member of the Central Committee, asked for Karlovec to identify himself and Chairwoman suggested that he sit in the last row designated for members of the “public,” his non-compliance brought McArthur's response that, “he [John Karlovec] isn't going to vote.”

McArthur's behavior appeared selective and arbitrary; shortly before the onset of the meeting, her comments to us about our video camera gave us the impression that we were required to share any information we published with her and the Republican Party. As in many other situations where individuals “in control” have seemed uncomfortable in the presence of our video camera and our willingness and ability to report Geauga County events to the members of the community, it becomes necessary to remind her and everyone else that a public meeting is a public meeting. Just as the Mapleleaf and the Geauga Courier are permitted to offer reviews of the Republican Central Committee meeting to their readers, we, also, are entitled to that right and responsibility. When told that we often do not need to include video, Ms. McArthur responded, “I hope not.” Why not, Ms. McArthur?

We trust, Ms. McArthur, that this explanation will help you know, as other public officials have learned, that public meetings are subject to the Open Meetings Act/Sunshine Law. Geauga Prosecutor Flaiz, who was in attendance at the meeting, could have handily explained that concept to you. We trust that you will have no future need to address the topic of appropriateness of content with us again. In the meantime, we believe that it is critical for you to apply rules and policies equally to everyone in attendance, lest the Republican Party be the subject of editorials in the public forum.


ARE GEAUGA TAXPAYERS PAYING FOR “QUESTIONABLE” LITIGATION AGAIN?
Published March 12, 2015

The Geauga Commissioners at the meeting of Tuesday, March 10, approved in Agenda Item #3, a legal bill of $4265 for the services of Concord attorney, Abraham Cantor, during the time period of January 9, 2015- January 20, 2015. These services were performed as the attorney for Probate Court Justice Timothy Grendell in Eleventh District Court of Appeals case 15G000002. The G stands for “Geauga County.” The plaintiff in the case is Nancy McArthur, currently vice-mayor of Chardon and current chairman of the Geauga County Republican Party. The defendant is Judge Timothy Gendell and is an apparent result of Ms. McArthur being summoned to appear before Judge Grendell in late 2014 to answer for written opinions generated by Ms. McArthur in e-mails that Judge Grendell received upon request. Ms. McArthur currently engages two attorneys from the Schuster law firm. That case is currently ongoing, with the latest request from Judge Grendell resulting in the voluntary recusal of Eleventh District Justice, Colleen O'Toole, from the panel of justices hearing the case. The case promises to be a lengthy experience with regular and expensive bills from Judge Grendell's legal counsel. It is entirely possible that this is a case, which seems to involve the issue of personal civil rights and freedom of speech which may need the services of the Ohio Supreme Court, should that body choose to hear it, at considerable expense to Geauga County taxpayers.

The question posed by this commentary is the need for Geauga County taxpayers to foot the bill for legal controversies that appear to hinge on personal issues that are outside the business of elected officials or in direct contradiction to or impedance of Ohio Revised Code and/or the Ohio Constitution.

We are reminded in this case of litigation during the time period of 2010-2015, when the Trustees of Auburn Township, having the advantage of use of the Geauga County Prosecutor's Office (under former elected official David P. Joyce, now known as Geauga's U.S. Representative) at the expense of Geauga County taxpayers' dollars, was represented by Assistant Prosecutor Mary Brigid [Bridey] in multiple legal actions involving Auburn Township farms recognized as such by the Ohio program of Current Agricultural Use Valuation. One of the farms was Auburn Twin Oaks Winery, involving the Ohio Revised Code recognized agricultural use of viticulture. The other was A Wind in the Woods farm, a horse farm extant in Auburn Township continuously since 1996. In both cases the Geauga Prosecutor's Office (using the aforementioned Mr. Joyce and Mrs. Matheney) backed Auburn Township ELECTED officials in incorrectly alleging, in defense of Frank V. Kitko, the township's zoning inspector, that neither farm was engaged in farming activities and that both were violating Auburn Township zoning code.

In fact, as MOST elected township officials, the Ohio Township Association, and planning and land-use experts readily know and attest, farms are EXEMPT from township zoning regulations as a result of Ohio Revised Code 519.21. Suffice it to say, through judgments by the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, both farms emerged victorious and justified in their actions. Viticulture is an acceptable use of agriculture that should have made unnecessary and laughable the vindictive actions of the Auburn Township Trustees, who pursued the case all the way to the Ohio Supreme Court, only to have that body turn town the township petition, at substantial, needless cost to Geauga taxpayers, perhaps out of the need to satisfy elected officials' need to feel all-powerful and self-righteous.

Likewise, the Eleventh District also vindicated A Wind in the Woods, but only after a many-year pursuit of litigation that was accessible to them and often explained the then officiating Fiscal Officer that those legal services were “free.” Unknown to many township and county taxpayers was the fact that Auburn Township initiated injunction insurance, betting that A Wind in the Woods would initiate a 10kw wind turbine (for which Zoning Inspector granted approval as a farm exemption and then withdrew permission capriciously as a result of apparent “political” pressure). Instead, the farm held out without rash action, but in the end it was forced to forego a substantial State of Ohio grant offered for alternative energy projects because of the sunsetting of the grant and the change of the gubernatorial administration from Strickland to Kasich. As a result of losing its frivolous claims by virtue of the Eleventh District judgment, Geauga County taxpayers footed the $1500 bill for the forfeited injunction insurance policy. Taxpayers also footed the bill for the services provided by the Ohio Township/Burnham and Flowers appointed attorney. Who was that attorney? None other than Abraham Canter, the attorney hired by Judge Grendell to represent him as the defendant in the above mentioned case of 15G000002.

We think it is high time that taxpayers in Geauga County become aware of how their tax dollars can be spent with frivolity and negligence and perhaps even malevolence “because they can.” Per Geauga County records in the Archives, we have encountered the fact that elected officials were personally responsible for “making good” expenses that they incurred as part of their elected position. That situation ended long, long ago so that taxpayers must bear the brunt of any litigation that their elected officials incur: innocent or guilty. We firmly believe that Geauga taxpayers must be informed of abuses that still exist within Geauga County by being informed enough to demand that their elected officials stop availing themselves of taxpayer funds to pay for “frivolous” actions that, in our opinion, circumvent both the letter and the spirit of the law.


GEAUGA COUNTY BOARD OF MENTAL HEALTH HAS ANOTHER ROUND WITH SCHOOL SURVEY AND SPURIOUS PARENT CONSENT FORM
Published March 4, 2015

The Geauga County Board of Mental Health, having held a contentious public meeting in February in the presence of multiple video cameras, appeared to agree to halt distribution of a widely questioned contentious survey and its parental approval form. See the video presented by this website on Wednesday, January 21, 2015, in the commentary section ( “Showdown: JFS Investigation of Survey Makes Board of Mental Health's Jim Adams Blink”).

At that meeting Board member Jeffrey Kline, after the presentation byhe approval of Director Jim Adams to suspend the survey pending rewording of the parental consent form. The consent form in question and subject to revision by the Board dictated that not signing the enclosed form would result in the child's required submission to the survey, which many in attendance criticized as including questions which encouraged drug experimentation and questioned family values.

During the special meeting of the Board of Mental Health on Monday, March 2, 2015. Director Jim Adams submitted for approval an alleged “revision” of the questionable parental consent form. We have seen the submission presented by Director Adams and cannot see any evidence of revision that would eliminate the so-called “passive permission” detailed in the previous consent form. In fact, we have found the letter to parents blatantly authoritative, preachy, and unnecessarily long enough to make the average reader's eyes glaze over. In addition, we are appalled at the flagrantly erroneous punctuation and flawed sentence construction that we did not expect to see distributed by a group of board members who claim to have wide professional and educational expertise and experience.

We submit the “revised” letter of explanation and the parental non-consent form for your examination. Were we parents of children currently enrolled in the public schools of this county, we would vigorously protest the content of the survey as well as the shabby disregard for the feelings of the public and of the parents.

We propose further that the Board of Mental Health's attempt at follow-up to resolve the problem is both shoddy and disrespectful of the community. Further action on the parental “non-consent” form has been tabled for April 8th at the office of the Board of Mental Health on Ravenna Road near Geauga Hospital. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30 P.M. and is open to the public. Invite your neighbors, your friends, your family to gain greater insight and to provide input to an entity that has apparently little or no interest in serving the needs of county residents who pay for its existence.

“WHO'S ON FIRST?”
Published February 19, 2015

Most of the readers reading the title have no clue about its origin or its meaning, but a long-deceased pair of comedians, But Abbott, and Lou Costello, made millions of radio listeners and movie attendees roar with laughter when they went through this routine in the 1930s to demonstrate how easily the wool could be pulled over folks' eyes and how easily they could be confused with a fast, glib tongue.

At the Auburn Township Trustee Meeting of February 16, 2015, we listened to a discussion, mostly between Trustees Eberly and Cavanagh, how there had been an incident where a vehicle did not or could not stop at the stop sign located at the intersection of Wing and Stafford Roads in Auburn Township. A comment from a Stafford Road resident was that this kind of incident is happening with more frequency along Stafford Road. Mr Eberly, though perhaps deliberately almost inaudible, stated that a warning for the approaching stop sign was posted on Wing Road. Trustee Cavanagh stated that we [the township] can put up yellow [warning] signs. Trustee Eberly countered that there had been a conversation with the County Engineer's Department in Chardon and that “they” would like to take a second look at the situation.

After the Trustee meeting adjourned at 8 P.M.,having lasted only half an hour, we visited the Wing/Stafford area. Near the crest of the hill on Wing was indeed a yellow warning sign advising of a stop sign. At the intersection of Wing and Stafford, posted on Stafford itself, was the red stop sign. Immediately to the left of the stop sign were tire marks that ended abruptly in a tall pile of snow bounded by someone's personal fence. The evidence was that a driver had not managed to stop.

We sent a quick note off to Frank Antenucci, who responded on Tuesday thanking us for our attention, since no elected official had yet broached the topic with Engineer Cattell's office. The brief note ended with the advice that since both roads [Stafford and Wing] are township roads, the Engineer's Office has no influence or jurisdiction on any decision. See the attached letter here.

Frank,
There is a stop sign posted at Wing/Stafford Roads.  Last evening, we saw evidence of vehicle(s) not being able to or simply not stopping at the sign with tire tracks in a snowbank on private property on Stafford Road.  Does this stop sign permit proper sight-distance to facilitate proper braking time/distance because of the hill?
Diane and Tom

Mr. and Mrs. Jones,
Thank you for making the Engineer aware of this issue. I will have someone from the Engineer’s Office contact the township to make them aware. That particular intersection is a township intersection with two township roads intersecting, and thus under the purview of the township.
Regards,
Frank

        Frank Antenucci, Esq.
       Administrator
       Geauga County Engineer’s Office






In conclusion, why was it necessary for Trustees Eberly and Cavanagh to “pass the buck” by leaving the impression that the posting of signs for the two streets might somehow come under the review of the Engineer's Office? Clearly they knew that responsibility for posting township roads is under their authority.

Think back to every Trustee election in recent history and recall how incumbent Trustees have used the old mumble-jumble about their years of experience on the job.

It looks as though all that experience managed to fall into a snowbank at Wing and Stafford Roads.

“Who's on First?”


REAR RAVES, RANTS, AND ROARS IN RESPONSE TO RESIDENTS' REMARKS
Published January 27, 2015

Returning to public chambers after an executive session that included Geauga County Administrator Dave Lair, Archives Director Linda Burhenne, Job and Family Services Director Craig Swenson, and Assistant Prosecutor Susan Weiland, Commissioners returned to public chambers at 10:10 a.m. Since all the items on the agenda had been discussed and resolved, Board President Claypool asked if there was any comment from the public. Michael Petruziello volunteered. He addressed his comment to Commissioner Rear and indicated concern for Rear's choice of defeated former Commissioner Mary Samide as his alternate to the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency [NOACA] instead of Engineer Joe Cattell.

Commissioner Blake Rear got through the entire election season (September-November 2014) without once losing his temper or venting his frustration with the public. After noting that his choice of his alternate to NOACA was his choice, Rear started to raise his voice.

Petruziello responded, “Who is more knowledgeable than the Engineer?”

In a voice noticeably punctuated by anger, Rear cited several occasions at NOACA when Cattell did not show up. “Having him [Cattell] not there is not an asset. . . We need to have someone in our county. . .And that's it.”

If was the second occasion during the meeting that Rear said, “And that's it,” referring to his unwillingness to talk about the subject any further. Earlier in the meeting when he had stated, “And that's it,” he indicated that one of his possible actions was to simply walk out of the meeting if he chose to do so.

When Claypool attempted to state the events of the NOACA meeting of Friday, January 23, Rear prefaced his own comment with, “To correct my colleague. . ,” insisting that members of NOACA are given committee assignments based on their seniority in elected office, perhaps a reference to Claypool's assuming the responsibility of Commissioner during the month of January.

Claypool stated, “Here's what I saw” in reference to Rear's selection of Samide as his NOACA alternate: Claypool noted that Samide voted to raise gasoline taxes and Samide continues to support bicycle paths. “I have real concerns about Mary Samide.”

“I need to clarify,” interjected Rear, evidently trying to remind Claypool and those in attendance that Claypool wants a buggy lane for a widened route 528. “I can just leave,” Rear stated, perhaps an effort at a dare or a showdown.

An unusually quiet and withdrawn Ralph Spidalieri invited a question, “How do you feel about this NOACA?” “I go along with Skip,” replied Spidalieri in a quiet, passionless voice.

Michael Petruziello had another question: “Is there a plan to get out of NOACA?”
Claypool responded, “NOACA has put out four alternatives. Our best option may be to stay in NOACA. . . I'm going to ODOT, Dave Joyce, and our State Representative [Sarah LaTourette].”

Rear had more to say,”Since last year, we instructed Mr. Claypool that if he could figure out a way to get our road money, we can leave. . .I oppose 95% of NOACA actions.”


When Claypool attempted to answer Petruziello's question of having a congressman who will get tax dollars for Geauga County [ apparently a reference to Dave Joyce], Claypool was beginning to respond when Rear interrupted,”Why are you attacking me?”

Claypool: “You miss the point. . .”

Rear responded again with raised voice.

Bob Laczko, from the audience: “We'd like to see us out of NOACA. . . “And please get microphones.” Laczko expanded his comment to explain that neither the Commissioners nor “their guests” made comments that could be heard by those in attendance.

Having been called to order at 9 a.m., the new official starting time for Commissioner meetings, the meeting was officially ended about 10:38 when there was no more public comment. Blake Rear appeared to be as antagonistic, defensive, and sarcastic as the Commissioner he was appointed by the Republican Central Committee in late 2013 to replace.

Final announcements indicate that a Commissioners' meeting will occur at 6:30 P.M, on Thursday, January 29 at the Commissioners Chambers. Based on the events this morning, it could be a lively encounter.
SHOWDOWN: JFS INVESTIGATION OF SURVEY MAKES BOARD OF MENTAL HEALTH'S JIM ADAMS BLINK
Published January 21, 2015

At least three video cameras recorded the events at the January Board of Mental Health meeting tonight. The video clips presented here are of Craig Swenson replying to Commissioner Spidalieri
and of BMH member Jeff Kline successfully making the motion that will result in a revision of the written permission form that Geauga schools will henceforth furnish to parents of students who will take the survey. Fourth and fifth graders will henceforth be exempt from the survey.

Shortly after being appointed as Director of Geauga County Job and Family Services, Craig Swenson found himself in the position of having to “take on” the Board of Mental Health. Last month, Commissioner Ralph Spidalieri initiated a resolution to have Swenson investigate a drug-related survey that was circulated among students in Geauga public schools. The issue arose when Spidalieri expressed alarm during a commissioners' meeting regarding survey questions which asked students how often they had experimented with “drugs” in the last thirty days. This site dealt with the topic and suggested that resolution of the issue rests in the hands of County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz.

Swenson, himself an attorney, reported that the current implementation of the survey is the fourth since 2002. As a result of his investigatory actions, Chardon schools will not be subjecting their students to the survey. As of Swenson's announcement tonight, West Geauga schools have not responded to his request for more information. Although JFS has no jurisdiction to file a complaint against the Geauga Board or its director Jim Adams, “the process is flawed” because the format of the survey has not been reviewed by the Board of Mental Health and because parents of those students subject to the survey have not received enough information. “Just because we have done it before doesn't make it right.” In a quiet, even-toned voice, Swenson added, “Legal injunction [against the Board of Mental Health and/or Director Jim Adams] may be initiated by the County Prosecutor.”

As a result of Swenson's investigation and analysis that the process in administering the survey is flawed, Jeff Kline at the end of the meeting was able to get the rest of the board members to agree to revamp the parental permission form so that the only way that students CAN take the survey is with the express written consent of their parents. Within a few minutes of that breakthrough, Teresa Slater adjourned the meeting, which had begun at 7 PM. The time was 8:53.

Observed in earlier BMH meetings as autocratic and arrogant, Adams appeared tonight to be mild-mannered, open to suggestions, and conciliatory. Several members of the public provided input to the board, mostly to express strong objection to language in the survey which they believe induces students to experiment with the very substances which caring parents wish their children to avoid.

It seemed apparent to this observer that in the ongoing conflict between Commissioner Spidalieri and Jim Adams, the latter blinked and decided to eat some crow. The presence of a full house of attendees, including two elected officials, and video cameras, appeared to make the outcome possible.

WHY IS THE AUBURN TOWNSHIP FIRE DEPARTMENT CALLED VOLUNTARY?
Published January 19, 2015

The Auburn Township Trustee Meeting, called to order at 7:30 P.M., lasted about 20 frigid minutes. The furnace broke down late last week so a very quiet portable heater worked its level best to try to keep the pipes from freezing.

During the public comment section of the meeting, resident Claudine Steinfurth directed a question to Fire Chief John Phillips. “Why is the fire department called 'voluntary' when all the help is paid?”
Umm. Great question.

John Phillips responded that the time and expense of changing the filing name would be too prohibitive. Gee, John, this answer won't really cut it. How many times have the Trustees referred to good ole' buddy, Bridey Matheney, in the Prosecutor's Office to “cross all the t's and dot all the i's.” How quickly you have forgotten how former Fiscal Officer Plavcan used to insist that services from the Prosecutor's Office didn't cost the taxpayers a red cent.

Well, guys, you can't have it both ways. You can't brag about the endless availability of the Geauga Prosecutor's Office and Matheney and then whine that the expense and time of refiling the correct name of Auburn Township VOLUNTARY Fire Department to its correct terminology of Auburn Township Fire Department is not convenient to the taxpayers.

Fact of the matter is that if all the residents of Auburn Township knew that the AVFD consists of NO volunteers, they might think a little harder and smarter about how far their fire department dollars go and where they are going.


SHOULD AUBURN TOWNSHIP TRUSTEES BE ABLE TO SELECTIVELY CIRCUMVENT OHIO REVISED CODE WITH THE AID OF THE GEAUGA PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE AND COMMON PLEAS COURT?
Published January 9, 2015

You may recall hearing and reading about two Auburn Township farms that by Ohio Revised Code 519.21 were exempt from any Auburn Township zoning. Both entities were registered in the state program known as Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV), administered by the County Auditor of each county in the state of Ohio. Both of these farms were long recognized by the Geauga County Auditor as farms by virtue of their being in the CAUV program. Only Auburn Township Trustees and their appointed minion, the Zoning Inspector, would not see it that way and chose to ignore ORC with the help of the County Prosecutor's Office, then under David Joyce, and Assistant Prosecutor Mary Brigid Matheney. She knew the law and advised the Trustees, but when the Trustees decided to ignore ORC, she bent to their wills and in the time period between 2009-2014, Geauga County taxpayers footed the bill for Auburn Township's frivolous pursuit of these two farms. Judge David Fuhry, the Common Pleas judge in charge of both those cases chose not to demand that Auburn Township through Assistant Prosecutor Matheney engage in negotiation with the farms. The result was a costly court battle to the Eleventh Court of Appeals, which decided in favor of both farms. The taxpayers of Geauga County footed the bill so that Auburn Township could be told that Ohio Revised Code is the law of the state of Ohio and that Auburn Township must follow ORC 519.21. What a waste of time, energy, and Geauga tax dollars. Shame on Auburn Township Trustees, the Geauga County Prosecutor David Joyce, and Assistant Prosecutor Matheney, who still has a job with the current Prosecutor Jim Flaiz.

Fast forward to May 2014. The Auburn Township Board of Zoning Appeals rejected the request of Eclipse Landscaping Companies, LLC, located in the old Wheeler Landscaping building, to stockpile concrete/asphalt aggregate on two properties located at 17940 and 15954 Ravenna Road and owned by Cur Huffman. Eclipse claimed that the extensive piles of aggregate were necessary to his paving business, for example a Geauga County contract awarded in spring 2014. Eclipse filed an administrative appeal in Geauga County Common Pleas Court under David Fuhry in June 2014. To reiterate, Fuhry was the judge in both the farm cases cited above, and his decision not to force Assistant Prosecutor Matheney to engage in negotiation because “the Board of Zoning Appeals doesn't want to talk” resulted in the Eleventh District Court of Appeals finding error with Fuhry's procedure and essentially reading him out. In the current Eclipse case, known as 14A000484, Fuhry apparently decided on a different approach and immediately asked for negotiation between Gregory O'Brien, Eclipse's attorney, and Matheney, Auburn Township's county-appointed attorney. The two attorneys several times during the course of this litigation filed joint motions for extensions of time to “talk.”
The result of that “talk” was the Consent Judgment Entry and Agreement entered into and filed on December 22, 2014, without the need for Eclipse to appeal at Eleventh District Court of Appeals.

The Consent Judgment Entry and Agreement, whose legal expense is to be paid entirely by Eclipse (Number 10, page 4), permits Eclipse to continue storing “transported concrete/asphalt materials. . . excavated from the Ohio Department of Transportation Project along U.S. Route 422 between State Route 306 and State Route 44 in Bainbridge and Auburn Townships to the properties“( Number 2b, page 4) with “a temporary visual and sound barrier around the processing equipment” (Number 2d, page 4), with operational hours “on Mondays through Fridays between the hours of 8:00 a.m. through 6 p.m commencing on December 29, 2014 through March 31, 2015 ” with operation prohibited “on any Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday,” (Number 2e, page 4).

Most importantly, “[t]he Parties hereby release and discharge each other from and against all damages, including monetary, that they now have, have had, or may hereafter have against each other resulting from the subject matter of this action,” (Number 4, page 5). And so, as a result of this “friendly negotiation,” the township managed to resolve the dispute within six months with Eclipse. We congratulate Eclipse and Attorney Gregory O'Brien for achieving justice in their legal action, 14A000484.

Why couldn't Auburn Township during the years 2009-2014 have resolved the issues it erroneously pursued against two farms that were exempt from township zoning because of Ohio Revised Code 519.21? Auburn Township officials violated ORC and in the process committed malfeasance, misfeasance, and nonfeasance.

Should Auburn Township voters elect such candidates to the position of Trustees again when given the opportunity to do so?

To view the entire court document click here

MENTAL HEALTH BOARD MEMBER JEFF KLINE: “I'VE BEEN TOLD THAT THE COMMISSIONERS HAVE SAID IT'S OKAY TO GIVE JIM ADAMS ANOTHER RAISE...”
Published January 8, 2015

On a day of sub-zero temperatures, recently-appointed Board of Mental Health member Jeff Kline expressed his frustration over attitudes of other Mental Health Board members for their arrogance, negligence, and irresponsibility. Further, he related to Commissioners Spidalieri and Claypool and County Administrator David Lair that no one on the Mental Health Board will talk to him because he is considered to be “the bad boy,” even though “Adams [ Director of the Department of Mental Health] is taking actions without discussing them with Mental Health Board [members].”

Although Jeff Kline had agreed to address all three County Commissioners, Commissioner Blake Rear was called away from the meeting within ten minutes of its inception with news of health issues in his family. Consequently, Kline was able to voice his concerns with only two of the three Commissioners, causing Spidalieri to say, “We need to continue this conversation with Blake present.”

Spidalieri, as he has several times in 2014, referenced Mental Health Director Jim Adams as a double dipper who was retired and rehired with “ridiculous raises” that increased his salary to $150.000, making him far and away the most-lavishly paid employee in Geauga County. The latest controversy is the survey that was distributed to students in several Geauga County schools at the apparent behest of Jim Adams. The contents of that survey were published at this site after the December 9, 2014, Board of Mental Health meeting, which attracted the participation of a huge number of outraged Geauga County residents.

It was evident from Kline's testimony that he is convinced that Board of Mental Health members go along with the decisions and policies of Jim Adams without expressing any criticism or concerns. When Kline expressed need for support from the Commissioners to bring reforms to the Board of Mental Health, Commissioner Claypool replied,” Be patient. Help is on the way.”

So, Commissioners, you have, with Jeff Kline's courageous testimony, apparently made clear transgressions and inappropriate actions on the part of Jim Adams and the Board of Mental Health.
What, then, is the next step? Months ago Commissioner Spidalieri asserted that because Commissioners have the authority to appoint members of the Board of Mental Health, they also have the authority to remove offending members and officials of that department. A while back Commissioner Spidalieri called for an investigation into the Board of Mental Health to be initiated by the new director of Job and Family Services, Craig Swenson, but so far there has been no such action either from JFS or County Prosecutor, Jim Flaiz, in the elimination of what two of the three current Commissioners are claiming to be negligence and malfeasance in Mental Health.

What is it going to take to get down to the bottom of this Mental Health scandal?
What is Prosecutor Flaiz waiting for in order to solve or stamp out what appear to be glaring examples of gross malfeasance within this department?


“HAD YOU BEEN PAYING ATTENTION . . . ”: KUDOS TO AUBURN'S PJ CAVANAGH
Published January 6, 2015

During the January 5, 2015, Auburn Township Trustee meeting, P.J. Cavanagh was in a confessional state of mind. “I never knew this before. County workers get the day after Christmas off.”
Yep, it's been happening that way for awhile, PJ. You needn't have waited for an individual to call you with that delicious revelation. In case you did not know, Geauga County has an “official” website with all kinds of choice information, such as holidays for county employees. It's been set up that way for a long time.

How long have you been an elected Auburn Township Trustee? According to reports (written by a family member other than yourself?) you published in 2011, you served your township for twenty years. But in all that time “had you been paying attention,” a phrase you used to chide attendees of public Auburn Township meetings during that time, you could easily have learned about this employment policy utilized by Geauga County Commissioners at the Geauga County website.

Where have you been for twenty years, P.J.? Has your head been buried in the Cavanagh marsh for too long?