Editor and Thornville Residents:
I would like to respond to the story appearing in the Beacon’s September 3rd edition, which contained the headline “Newbold refuses to share documents.”
I attempted to share those documents at the Special Council Meeting on August 8, 2016. At my request, a Public Comments section was added to the agenda for the August 8, 2016 meeting regarding the grass and weeds ordinance. On orders from the mayor and the council president, that portion of the agenda was deleted. These are the topics addressed in the two petitions.
In August, I sought public input from citizens regarding the Weed and Grass Ordinance and, more importantly regarding the right to speak to council regarding the same.
At the Special Meeting of August 8, 2016, I tried to present the two polls and the council members who were present at the meeting didn’t rely upon either of the petitions to make any decisions. In fact, I made multiple motions to allow citizens at the meeting to speak. None of these motions were seconded. Neither the Mayor, nor any other council member present at the meeting would even look at either informal poll, or grant any citizen permission to speak during that meeting.
There is no mystery regarding the polls that I tried to present to village council at the Special Meeting of August 8, 2016. The only mystery is why anyone else on village council is interested in them now.
Further, during the last meeting the Village Administrator and I were given directive to start working on new legislation for the Weeds and Grass Ordinance. And, unfortunately, council does not have the ability to travel back in time and allow for citizens to speak during the August 8th Special Council Meeting.
On August 10, 2016, Council Member Mary Renner, wife of the mayor, made a “public records request” for my signed petition (singular) presented at the Special Council Meeting held on August 8, 2016.
At the August 22, 2016 Regular Meeting, I challenged whether the poll/petition met the definition of “public records” under Ohio law. They were not and they are not public records, at least not yet. The village solicitor did not give a definite opinion when asked and had not seen the Public Record Request submitted to the village by Mary Renner. I read out loud the citation to an Ohio Supreme Court case on the issue but the solicitor acknowledged that he had never read it.
At that meeting, I also explained that I have no access to the village solicitor. In February I requested a written legal opinion on proposed legislation directed at my use of social media. I never received it. Later in the year, I asked for an explanation of the solicitor’s instruction regarding a public records request by the former clerk of council for my personal copies of certain village records, copies for which I had paid the village. I did not receive that explanation. Instead, I received an instruction from mayor Renner not to contact the solicitor, directly or indirectly.
Though the polls are not public record, yet, I will present them at the next meeting of council. Both polls will be available for anyone to see and I welcome one and all to visit my Facebook Page and Twitter Feed to find out how the mayor and council respond and for news on other village issues.
Mary Renner’s Public Record Request of August 10, 2016 is the 3rd attempt since March by village officials to get access to my papers under the guise of a “public record request” request.
On March 7, 2016, the former village council clerk apparently made a written “public records request” for 52 pages of copies I made in January of Zoning Meeting Minutes. COPIES that I paid for are not the public records. I did not see that written request until June. Although the solicitor and clerk had it, nobody sent it to me.
On June 28, 2016, Mayor Gavin Renner made a “public records request” for all emails, text messages, and private Facebook messages between myself and a resident — the one who initially complained about the mayor and councilwoman Renner’s chickens kept at their residence– as well as, any notes, questions, and prepared statements that were in my possession during the June 27, 2016 Council Meeting.
At that June meeting the mayor was asked about public purchases made from his relatives and about the diapered chickens kept at his house. The records request followed immediately after the mayor’s aggressive tirade at that meeting — directed at me — from which he was escorted out by the police.
Regarding the mayor’s ungentlemanly conduct, he publicly apologized in your pages to others, but he has never apologized to me.
Regarding the mayor’s June 28 records request, I sent everything that might possibly meet the definition of a public record but everything else Mayor Renner requested is my personal property.
At the Special Council Meeting held on August 8th, I tried to present my informal poll concerning proposed changes in the weeds and grass ordinance and my informal poll concerning the right of citizens to speak at the August 8th Special Council meeting.
Neither petition was relied upon for Village business; therefore, I believe the petitions are NOT public records. If turning over my informal polls will stop the Mayor and Council members from prohibiting the citizens of Thornville from voicing their opinions during future meetings, I will gladly turn the polls over to Council Member Renner. Freedom of speech is of utmost importance to me.
I believe the process for making “public records requests” has been misused to attempt to gain access to personal papers. The resources of the Village have been misused in the process. I retained and paid my own attorney to deal with these requests, but you, the taxpayers, were forced to pay the Village Solicitor and the Village Clerk (both hourly employees) to work on these “public records requests.” I cannot ignore the law and simply turn over personal property without setting a dangerous precedent. I’d like these roadblocks to stop so that I can perform the job you elected me to do, with a focus on economic growth and community involvement.
I got involved in local government to help my community. I wanted to start with improving our parks so young teens will have something to do and so younger children will have a clean safe place to play. I have done that and I have more to do.
I did not plan on being in the middle of the mayor’s controversies over possibly paying public money to family, a zoning violation with the diapered chickens, using village money improperly in an effort to justify the misconduct, and now the effort to silence the opposition.
Social Media use is once again back before village council — legislation targeted at my efforts to advise villagers of upcoming events and council meetings. I don’t plan to be silenced and I won’t let you be either. That, I promise you.
Thornville Village Council