Whitehall Council president seeks input on commission appointmen

Whitehall Council President Brent Howard announced Feb. 5 that he has agreed to further discussion about his resolution to appoint five people to serve on the 2008 Charter Review Commission, a decision that was opposed by two council members.  

Councilwomen Jackie Thompson and Leslie LaCorte expressed their opposition  at the last committee meeting when Howard presented his choices for the commission without asking for input from council members.  They felt it should not be the decision of one person.

Thompson also asked for an apology from Councilman Chris Rodriguez, who had accused her of breaking Ohio’s opening meeting law, or "Sunshine Law," by sending an email to fellow council members on the morning of Jan. 22.  

The previous evening, Howard had sent everyone an email informing them that he  had selected five people for the charter review commission, and would be bringing it to the table at the committee meeting.  

In her email, Thompson asked her colleagues if they knew anything about it, and asked what they thought.  

Council Clerk Carol Churchman interjected that it didn’t matter whether all five members were addressed in one email or in five separate emails, it still violated the Sunshine Law.

Thompson explained that she had researched the law and had found that it does not cover email correspondence.

"Mr. Rodriguez, you have publicly intimated that I have violated the law," Thompson stated.  "Before doing so, you did not check the Sunshine Law, and have it in your hand as evidence.  You did not go to the city attorney before your accusation, nor did you go to the Ohio Attorney General Sunshine Law Division, as I have since done.  I am shocked that as a courtesy to a new member, you did not email me back to inform me that I am not permitted to send an inquiry like that to members."  

She then read sections of the code from the manual that state that the law does not cover emails, and does not consider them "meetings."  

She then told Rodriguez, "You have publicly questioned my integrity.  You owe me an apology."  

Rodriguez did not respond to Thompson’s demand.

Thompson suggested suggested that the human resources department devise a small book for newly elected officials that would highlight most common ethics and open meeting law requirements that they might inadvertently violate.  

In other business, some personnel changes were announced.  Parks Director Terry Gee will be leaving at the end of February for a new position with Columbus Recreation and Parks.  

Walter Sural has been hired as the new code enforcement officer, effective Feb. 1, replacing Jerry Roff, who retired Jan. 31.  

Sural is a former Ward 2 councilman, who stepped down from his seat several years ago when he moved to New Albany.  

Councilman Leo Knoblauch commented that he had no problem with who was appointed to the position, but preferred that it would have been a Whitehall resident.

City Attorney Michael Shannon explained that he has been working with Thompson on proposed legislation regarding pit bulls.  

He has been researching other communities, and how they handle ownership of pit bulls.  

He said that he would have a draft for Thompson to present at the Feb. 12 committee meeting for council to discuss.  That meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.

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