June 27, 2016

Partly cloudy

New mayor aims to clean house

SEVILLE — Mayor-elect Carol Carter asked three members of the village’s Zoning and Planning Board and one member of the Parks Committee to resign this week as she and four new Village Council members prepare to take office on New Year’s Day.

Carter said she believes it is time for old appointed officials to step down and allow new people to step in with “fresh, new voices and different approaches.”

“I campaigned on change, accountability and honesty, and for the new administration to accomplish this, we need a change of the present committee members voted in by the previous Council,” she said.

In November, voters ousted four Council incumbents. Carter was elected over incumbent Mayor Larry Landis.

Carter said she believes residents were unhappy with the elected officials who made the committee appointments, and she would like to “hand pick” her appointees the way past mayors have.

“They (the voters) stepped up and asked me to clean house, so I asked them to resign,” she said.

Zoning and Planning Board Chair Dennis Gordon said he was surprised by the call for his resignation, which came in the form of a letter handed to him at the end of the board’s meeting Monday night.

“I was quite surprised by the call for resignation,” Gordon said. “Faced with several important issues in the coming year, I was looking forward to working with the new mayor and new Council members to address these issues.”

Gordon said the resignation of the current board would mean the loss of years of experience in zoning issues. The board possibly could be replaced with appointees who have little or no experience, he said.

Appointments to the five-member board are for six years. Gordon’s term ends in March 2014. Pete Fontana, whose term ends in March 2011, and Richard Demastes, whose term ends in September 2011, also were asked to resign.

The other Planning and Zoning Board members are Landis and outgoing Councilman Ralph Smith, who was not re-elected in November. They automatically lose their seats in the new year and will be replaced by appointees nominated by Carter and approved by Council.

On the Parks Committee, Michelle Fontana was asked to resign.

Last spring, Carter and her husband, Bill, sparred with the Zoning Board over an ordinance that prohibited them from parking a new RV in their driveway. At the time, Carter said the board did not listen to her and other residents’ opinions with “respect and common courtesy.”

“I campaigned for resident-friendly zoning, and the present zoning members aren’t friendly, so to ask them to resign was and is a must,” she said.

Gordon said he does not have any immediate plans to resign because Carter’s reasons for asking him to do so are unclear.

“Mayor-elect Carter did not state a specific reason for asking for my resignation,” he said. “I will need a clearer explanation of her thinking before making any decision whether to resign or stay.”

Pete Fontana said he does not plan to resign from the Planning and Zoning Board. A member since 2000, he said he was proud of helping to develop the comprehensive development plan and the new zoning code, and he intends to work cooperatively with the new administration.

“We are really unhappy with the way Ms. Carter has handled this,” he said. “She doesn’t realize we are ready to cooperate with her.”

He added that he expected “more professionalism” from the mayor-elect.

Citing information from village Law Director Ted Lesiak, Fontana said anyone can ask an official to resign, whether a citizen or an official. bUT, unless the appointee is guilty of misconduct, he or she cannot be kicked out of office, even with a petition signed by residents.

Carter said she expects to give out more letters after the new administration is sworn in on Friday.

“These are the ones that stuck out … and left a bad taste in residents’ mouths,” Carter asserted. “I’ll keep sending the letters little bit by little bit and see where it leads us.”

Contact Lisa Hlavinka at (330) 721-4048 or lhlavinka@ohio.net.