BUCKEYE LAKE – A ques- tion about village council’s oversight arose at Monday night’s council meeting.
The issue came up in a recent Personnel Committee meeting. Committee Chair Peggy Wells wanted committee members to review personnel procedures such as the hiring procedure, employee reviews etc. Wells referenced some recent changes in standard operating procedures at the fire department, noting that a council ordinance requires council review and approval of any changes.
Wells said when council member Arletta Ruton and her husband, Fire Captain Dave Ruton arrived for the council meeting that was to follow the committee meeting, they objected to her even having the documents. “Even though these papers had been distributed to the personnel and had been posted at the station, they seemed to think I should have had to do a public records request,” Wells explained.
Wells learned at a April 7 committee meeting that the village solicitor had apparently been consulted about whether there is a legal requirement that the council review and approve the operating procedures which primarily address personnel issues. Though Wells hasn’t seen any written opinion from the solicitor, she has been told that the village charter preempts the review/approval ordinance. That prompted her statement Monday night.
“This is NOT a legal issue,” Wells said. “It’s a matter of good management and our fiduciary responsibility to residents. Why shouldn’t the elected officials have oversight of all the policies and procedures of the village?” Wells said council members don’t have to write the policies and procedures but they should know what they are and either accept them or ask for revisions. She noted that the Water Department clerk doesn’t decide when to cut customers off for non-payment nor does the street supervisor decide where to place a stop sign.
”It is also a liability issue and we have a fiduciary responsibility to protect taxpayers from liability,” Wells added. “Staffing can also have a major impact on our finances. The finance committee should be reviewing policies on the number of staff on duty, hours worked and how shifts are filled to see if resources are available. Without proper oversight, the village could become liable for Fair Labor Standards Act violations including back wages, required benefits and penalties,” she explained.
In other business, Council Clerk Valerie Hans said the village would receive roughly $6,500 Moving Ohio Forward grant to demolish derelict houses. She said the grant would cover demolishing 5128 Walnut Road and 190 Union Street.
Council approved amendments to the Personnel Handbook increasing uniform allowances for the police department and to the council rules for the purpose of cleaning up the council agenda. The Parks and Recreation Commission reported on improvements to be made to the softball field, playground equipment and the shelter house overhead garage door.
Finance Chair Barry Herron said his committee has been discussing water tower improvements, the sale of village assets, repairs to police department vehicles, fire department CD reinvestment and Moving Ohio Forward grant monies.
Council adopted an ordinance to lease the former Buckeye Lake Library property at 41 First Street to LEADS for $1 a dollar a year for the continued operation of the food pantry. Council members agreed to suspend their three reading rule at LEADS request so they can get started at their expense on connecting the building to the village’s water system. LEADS will be responsible for all building maintenance.
Council also adopted an ordinance transferring $10,000 from the general fund into the street department fund. Herron emphasized that the street department will need to be careful not to incur any unnecessary expenses including overtime due to the limited funds available.