(Posted March 29, 2017)
By Amanda Ensinger, Staff Writer
Several residents attended the March 27 Mount Sterling council meeting to air grievances concerning village operations and the money stolen by former village administrator Joe Johnson.
Last month, Johnson was sentenced to 10 years in prison for engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, theft in office, money laundering and tampering with records. He also must pay $724,239 in restitution to the village.
“Some of the residents are slightly frustrated because we feel there is still a rift between the council and residents,” said Meg Downing, village resident. “All we are asking you to do is manage the taxpayers’ money and that people should be held accountable. The council’s belief is that we should move on, but we need accountability first.”
Downing said village leaders should not take out their frustrations on residents or the media, which she said is just trying to ensure that the community knows what is going on.
Other residents implored council members to be more open with information. Several comments were directed at council president Mary Lou Stiverson-Ratliff. At one point while residents were speaking, Stiverson-Ratliff left council chambers.
“I don’t feel the need to apologize,” she said before leaving. “Everyone always wants to blame the leaders and this is where I take offense. The next people that sit here after us, I feel sorry for them.”
In response to Stiverson-Ratliff leaving the meeting, village resident Becky Martin said, “You guys continue to have this mentality of us against you. One of the rudest people on council just got up and left. She is so rude and it is inappropriate.”
Residents also asked why the empty council seat still hasn’t been filled. Mayor Lowell Anderson did not respond to the question, but has said at previous meetings that council did not want to fill the seat.
However, in February, council member Diane Spradlin told the mayor and her fellow council members the seat should be filled.
“It is up to me if I want to fill this seat,” Anderson said at the time. “I have not decided what I want to do.”
Anderson gave no other details or timing for when he will make his decision. Currently, there are five members on council, with one seat that has sat vacant for over a year.
Residents also asked when a grocery store will come to the area.
“No grocery store is coming to the area because we have no building for it,” Anderson said. “However, we haven’t given up and have an area of land that will be available if we have a grocery store that is willing to come to the area.”
Anderson then ended the meeting despite residents still wanting to continue to dialogue with council.