(Posted Feb. 18, 2019)
UPDATE: Mount Sterling village council is holding a special meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 19 to swear in new council members and act on legislation. Council meets at village hall, 1 S. London St., Mount Sterling.
By Amanda Ensinger and Kristy Zurbrick, Staff Writers
Three members of Mount Sterling village council recently resigned. Lacking a quorum, the remaining members cut short their meeting on Feb. 11.
At least four of the six members must be present for council to act on legislation.
“Our legal counsel has advised us not to have a meeting because we can’t make motions or move forward with new business without a quorum,” said Mayor Billy Martin. “Any future council meetings will be posted on the (village) website.”
Council member Tom Ward submitted his resignation on Feb. 7. Council members Rebecca Burns and Tammy Vansickle submitted their resignations on the afternoon of Feb. 11. Each had three years left on their four-year terms. Ward and Vansickle were serving their first terms on council. Burns was serving her second term.
According to Courtney Bricker, Mount Sterling fiscal officer and clerk of council, the remaining council members have 30 days from the time of the resignations to appoint new council members. Otherwise, the mayor can make the appointments.
Martin said he hopes to see at least one of the vacancies filled before council’s next meeting on Feb. 25.
“I would like to get at least one new council member appointed so we can have a quorum,” he said. “We will be taking resumes of anyone that is interested.”
When asked after the meeting why the council members resigned, Martin said he had no comment.
Over the last several months, discussions at council meetings among village officials have been heated, from whether to hold a prayer at the start of meetings to the decision to raise rates to pay back the water plant debt.
In his resignation letter, Ward stated, “Due to recent events I no longer feel that I will be able to serve as a voice or in the best interest of the people.”
Ward listed in his letter some of the reasons for his resignation. He stated that on several occasions, he has been on the receiving end of “hostility and anger from the sitting mayor.” He also said the administration should be focused on seeking legal and governmental assistance regarding the water plant debt issue.
“It is my belief that without immediate intervention citizens are being placed, unduly, at risk for harm, financially and otherwise,” he stated.
He went on to state that he experienced “religious persecution” from another council member at the Jan. 28 meeting for stating his opinion about prayer at government meetings. He said he was “deeply offended” that Mark Pitstick, the village’s law director, did not intervene.
Vansickle, in her letter of resignation, said she was happy with the progress council was making at the beginning of her term, but that recent events led to her decision to step down.
“I cannot go against my ethics and morals and ignore recent events that have taken place,” she stated.
In a phone interview on Feb. 12, Vansickle said that, like Ward, she believes council and the administration should be doing more to investigate the loan agreement for the water plant and finding ways to alleviate the financial burden on residents.
Also, both Vansickle and Ward allege that village officials are not following Ohio Revised Code or Roberts Rules of Order for running meetings in some instances.
While she is no longer on council, Vansickle stated, “I will not give up on helping the residents and standing up for them.”
Burns’s resignation letter simply stated, “Due to reason too numerous to list at this time, I am resigning from my position on village council of Mount Sterling, effective immediately.” When contacted by phone, Burns said she planned to issue a more detailed statement in the near future.
About the resignations, Martin said, “This came, not as a shock, but a little of a surprise about how it was done. However, we will keep moving forward, we still have a team and will be just fine. I guarantee it.”
“I am anxious to get these seats filled,” said David Timmons, council president pro tem. “We have important legislation and positions we need to fill. We have issues with potholes, need to hire an administrator and a new water operator/utility worker. We need to get these seats filled quickly so we can get to work.”
In addition to Timmons, the remaining members of council are Lowell Anderson and Rebecca Martin.
Anyone interested in filling the vacancies can submit a resume and/or letter of interest to email@example.com.