THORNVILLE – We ran out of space last week for all of Thornville Mayor Gavin Renner’s comments following a Thornville Village Council meeting where council clerk Danielle Lovett resigned.
To review, Lovett said she resigned after council member Olivia Newbold questioned her professionalism and integrity in a Letter to the Editor in The Beacon’s Oct. 22 edition.
In an email to The Beacon, Renner said, “At the (Oct. 24 Thornville Village Council meeting), council passed the social media guidelines for council members. This provides guidance for what should be posted on social media by council members in their official capacity and best represent the village for the benefit of all residents. Social media has its advantages as a communications platform. Council members are responsible to act as good stewards of the information and calls to action they post. It can get complicated when public officials mix their private lives online with Village business. I think it’s best to keep those separate.
“The village needs to continue to work on the records retention policy to allow for appropriate retention and storage of social media posts that are related to village business. If a public official posts information or sends emails relevant to the village, it must be recorded. In the current situation this would need to be indefinite and is supposed to be done on paper. For private comments, the Village shouldn’t need to worry about it, record it, or provide it. Everyone on council, zoning, and the mayor has a private life and obligations to deal with outside of village business. For me, this obligation comes first. However, I am committed to giving my time to the village and do the best I can. I don’t think public officials nor employees should be subject to 24/7 scrutiny outside of work. The village is only responsible for making Village records available to citizens. The village is not interested in storing and retaining idle chit chat, gossip, or personal complaints. Nor are we interested in silencing free speech. However, the village cannot be involved in personal or civil issues. Those issues have to be dealt with outside of council chambers.
“I regret to announce that our village council clerk, Danielle Lovett, has decided to step down from her position. She will remain as the village zoning secretary. I’d like to thank her for her involvement and dedication to fulfilling her duties. Unfortunately, we’re spending a lot of time and money on a flood of information requests this year. Many of them related to personal disputes, not village issues. Danielle cited the hostile nature of complaints related to fulfilling requests as the reason for her departure. I’d like to note that she is the second village council clerk this year to resign over records issues. We are currently following our responsibilities and appropriate procedures for dealing with records despite assertions to the contrary. Currently the employees do a great job and care about what they do. They want to be held in respect and regard. Employees should not be subject to public attack in the media, online or in person.
The village council clerk position is responsible for records requests. Residents should still send their records requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the village office. We are advertising for a replacement Council Clerk. This may take time. Currently our solicitor’s office is reviewing records requests to determine validity. This will likely cost taxpayer money although they are delegating the work to cheaper office staff instead of the partner attorneys in the firm. Unfortunately, given the current circumstances we have no choice. We are required by law to satisfy public records requests. The number of requests this year far exceeds all other requests we’ve had in the last five years; we will have to continue this approach for the time being. Currently the requests show no signs of slowing.
“We started the process of physically destroying outdated records that were approved to be destroyed under our records retention policy as approved by the State Auditor’s office and Ohio Historical Society. I note that within an hour of starting to load records for disposal by burning, that this led to a flurry of phone calls to the Village Office and Beth citing concerns. I don’t understand what the fuss is about. The records have been approved for destruction since 2013. Rather than spending money on shredding, the village typically burns their records. This is a cheap option that has been done many times in the past. We’re following past approaches.
“There are a lot of things to wrap up now that the year is drawing to a close. Council needs to prepare and pass the budget for 2017. We have five other ordinances and resolutions up for consideration. We don’t have much time to finish that work. We won’t be able to effectively function as a village without proper appropriations legislation. While I disagree with passing things as an emergency on principle, it’s a tool council can use to get the things done that need to be done by certain dates. Ultimately it’s a repetitive task. I’ve grown to trust and rely on the people putting together the numbers and know they are doing a good job. This is reflected in our great audit scores over the years.