BUCKEYE LAKE – Village Council President Jeryne Peterson announced that council member Michelle “Mickey” Mc- Cormick resigned her position, shortly before the remaining council members unanimously voted to censure council member Peggy Wells for three meetings starting last Monday night. Wells will be allowed to attend the meetings and answer the roll and give a committee report, but otherwise cannot speak nor vote.
McCormick, who was in her first year of her first full term on council, sent an email to Peterson dated July 30 saying, “Due to personal and family illness and too many obligations, I resigned from village council today. I wish the entire council good luck in the future.”
Peterson said McCormick’s was the third resignation this year. “I’ve never seen that before,” she said. Earlier resignations were former council members Gerry Neff and Margaret Hanson. Neff later sought to regain her seat, but council members opted to appoint Robert Masone M.D. instead.
Masone asked if the resignations have a common cause.
“I have my suspicions why,” Peterson said. She said being a political figure can be “intense” at times and can involve some “jabbing and badgering, which is wrong. We’ve lost some really good people.”
The village will accept applications for McCormick’s seat until 4 p.m. on Tuesday, August 25, and interview candidates starting at 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 31.
After discussing where to advertise the vacancy, council member Arletta Ruton said, “I don’t know how the rest of you feel” about statements Wells made in The Beacon’s Aug. 1 edition and “Wells’ conduct” exhibited during the July 27 meeting. Ruton said she agrees there are discrepancies in the council rules that need to be addressed; however, “I think the best way to handle this was to take it to committee and not to blow this up out of proportion the way it was. Therefore, I am really saddened by the way this was handled. It shows a complete lack of respect for this council and for the council president,” Ruton said.
Wells had asked why the opportunity for council member comments had been removed from the agenda. She noted that council rule 43 states, “At the end of the meeting, each council member will have a three (3) minute time to make a comment or announcement. A member may defer his or her time to someone else if so desired.”
Ruton said rule 7 which sets the Order of Business doesn’t include a council member comment period. The comment period was dropped because some council member comments were considered to be disrespectful of other council members and village employees. Ruton said she agreed that the council comment period was getting out of control.
Ruton made a motion to censure Wells for three council meetings, beginning Aug. 10. Wells may attend the meetings but cannot speak beyond addressing the roll or making a committee report nor vote.
“Sometimes the discussion is a tiny part of something and not the whole,” Masone said, “and that’s been the problem in my short time on council. If we would cooperate more, we would get more done.” He said the bickering is “lots of wasted energy.”
Council member Barry Herron said following Masone’s second council meeting, Mason asked him, “Is this the way it always is? Unfortunately, I had to say, yes,” Herron said. He said Masone told him he was a “saint” for staying on council.
Herron said he’s had disagreements with other council members and Mayor Clay Carroll, but he’s always tried to work through the disagreements. “A lot of these things need to be worked out and not just aired on council,” he said, adding that committee meetings and private meetings are more appropriate places for such discussions. “It doesn’t need to be done in this council chamber and it certainly doesn’t need to become personal,” Herron said.
Herron said he also considered stepping down from council this year. “We don’t need to be acting like the Israelis and Palestinians,” he said, “We don’t need to be hurling bombs at each other.”
“I had no idea this subject was going to be brought forward,” Wells said. She said she prepared a letter for council regarding council rules being selectively ignored. Wells said she would distribute the letter to council members but also wanted to read it aloud.
Herron said she should distribute the letter before reading it. “It isn’t fair just to read something to council,” he said. Herron said it should go through proper channels, such as the rules committee, first.
Wells began reading her letter, but Peterson stopped her, saying council members may have questions or want to interject information of their own.
Masone called for the censure vote.
“You’re really not going to give me a chance to defend myself,” Wells said.
Masone said Herron asked her just to distribute the letter.
“This is a reflection of what the problem is,” said council member Kitty Zwissler.
“Exactly,” Herron said. “This should’ve been taken directly to the rules committee and addressed there.”
Wells said the rules say issues need to be brought to the council first and then referred to committee. “I’m the bad guy because I read the rules,” she said.
“Show me in the rules where it’s okay to degrade people by putting things in the paper,” Peterson said, adding that Wells pushed to have the council vacancy advertised in the same paper. She said Wells has attacked village employees from all departments. “You’ve humiliated people and I don’t think you even realized you did, and that’s even more sad. And, that’s what this is about, more than just the rules,” Peterson said.
Wells told The Beacon Wednesday, “The council president is not familiar with the trth. I have not attacked village employees or other council members. She keeps repeating that claim but never gets specific about when or what was said.” She added that President Pro Temp Barry Herron conducted three council meetings this year when Peterson was absent that went smoothly without any controversy.
As the vote to censure Wells was taken, Wells was asked to vote. “Am I allowed to vote? You don’t even know what the rule is, Jeryne,” Wells said.
“As we all know, any team, group, organization, or committee has a very difficult time being effective or productive when the members can’t work together,” Carroll said Wednesday. “It’s unfortunate that the situation got as far as it did but there was actually some very profound statements or comments that came out of that meeting which (if were applied) would make the council as well as the entire administration more effective and functional while creating a better work environment.”
According to council rules, “any member may move to censure the offending member for disrupting a lawful meeting of the council. Such censure motion shall be adopted upon the affirmative vote of the majority of remaining council members, excluding the offending member.
“The censure may be put forth to encompass only the discussion at hand, or, if the offending behavior is more serious, the council member may be censured for the remainder of that meeting or all subsequent future meetings. The offending council member shall remain silent throughout the remainder of the discussion or meeting, and shall not disrupt verbally or with other physical distractions, such as gestures or facial expressions.”
In other council news:
• Former village service director Vaughn Klingler told council he’s looking for volunteers for the annual Licking County River Roundup Day on Saturday, Sept. 12. He said volunteers should meet at the Village Offices that day and they would remove trash and debris from Waste Weir Run. Klingler said it would take roughly two hours to clean that waterway.
• Carroll said Aug. 8 Supercruise event was successful. “It was a pretty outstanding event,” he said, with more participation than expected.
The Supercruise coincided with National Trail Raceway’s annual Mopar event, and was a driving event from Heath through Buckeye Lake with stops along the way where auto enthusiasts may display their cars, listen to live music, and socialize.
Peterson she had a “blast” at the event and agreed it was successful. “I haven’t seen the village look that vibrant” in a while, she said. Peterson said the Tour of Homes event that weekend was successful as well.
• Zwissler said, while looking at pay scales for village employees, that Buckeye Lake Police Department employees make less money than employees of other departments. “I know money is tight, but the police wages are too low,” she said. Zwissler said it was nothing personal against employees of other departments, but they make more money.
Ruton said she didn’t disagree, but, “it’s not in their budget. They deserve to be paid better than this.”
Herron said any raise for the police department staff would need to be generated through an operational levy.
Carroll said the village staff will be working on the budget, but with the lake remaining at low pool until the dam is replaced and the devastating effect it’s having on the local economy, this probably isn’t a good time to place an additional operating levy on the ballot.
Herron said the village receives much less property tax revenue since the Buckeye Lake Truck Stop was torn down.