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Lakemore addressing public official complaint

10/4/2012 - South Side Leader
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By Emily Chesnic

Also, village dealing with legal issue due to zoning error

LAKEMORE — Four unexcused absences in a row have an elected official in danger of losing her position.

Lakemore Council President Tammie Coontz called an executive session during the Oct. 1 Lakemore Council meeting to discuss a public official complaint.

When Council returned 15 minutes later to the regular meeting, a resolution was read and approved to schedule a hearing to consider a complaint against Councilwoman Lori Strittmatter.

Strittmatter was absent from the meeting.

Despite Councilwoman Anne Snyder’s motion to excuse Strittmatter from the meeting, Council marked her failure to show up as another “unexcused absence.”

Mayor Rick Justice said he did receive a text from her that she did not have a ride to the meeting. This was the fourth consecutive meeting she missed, he said.

Village Solicitor Rebecca Doherty said a charge has been made to the state against Strittmatter because her Council seat has been vacant without valid excuse for a period exceeding two consecutive months, which is in violation of the Ohio Village Officer’s Handbook.

The hearing against Strittmatter, who was elected to the seat this past November and took office in January, will be held during the next Council meeting on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building, 1400 Main St.

Doherty said Strittmatter is invited to the hearing to explain herself but faces losing her seat.

Earlier this month, when contacted by phone about her unexcused absences, Strittmatter said she did not wish to comment on them.

According to Justice, Strittmatter had been getting paid as a Council member despite her lack of attendance at village meetings. He said her last check was held due to the situation, however.

Justice said Strittmatter also has not been tending to her responsibilities as Historical Committee chairperson and as a representative on the Springfield Township Local Cable Communications Board.

If Strittmatter loses her Council seat, then he would be responsible for appointing someone new to the position, Justice said.

Also during the regular meeting, Eric Schell, of 2386 Lakeside Drive, voiced his dissatisfaction with the village for not quickly resolving a legal matter regarding his ability to construct a “garage” on his property.

Justice told him he did not wish to speak on the matter since it is in litigation.

Doherty said it is her understanding that an agreement between the two parties would be reached soon.

“We have something relatively worked out,” she said.

Schell said he went through the proper administrative channels, receiving the permits necessary to construct a garage near his home, but the construction was put on hold about six months ago. He questioned why a decision could not be reached sooner, as the matter is costing him and the village money.

Justice said the village is “seeking to uphold its zoning code.”

Schell later said he believes the construction of his building was put on hold due to a neighbor’s complaint that his garage would block her view of the lake.

He said the village put his construction on hold because he was building too close to the road, but he believes he is not in violation.

“They gave me the permits to build,” he said.

After the meeting, Justice explained Schell was given permission in error. The structure, which Justice called a “pole barn,” is being constructed too close to the road, and it would be too large for that portion of the village’s zoning.

Schell appealed the decision to halt construction with the village’s Board of Zoning Appeals, and it agreed it was a “huge mistake” that he got the permits, he said.

Justice confirmed the village is using an attorney alongside Doherty to address this issue, with the money to cover the cost of additional legal counsel coming from the village’s legal fund.

Justice said Schell was given a “stop work order” but he denied it, so additional action had to be taken to take care of the issue.

According to Schell, however, the village is “conducting bad business.”

“This was a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of what he was constructing,” Justice said.

He added the village allowed “unsightly” structures to be constructed in error in the past, and officials do not want to see that happen again.

In other business, Council named Tracy Fast, village account clerk, interim fiscal officer for the village for a time period to be determined by Council and at a rate of $37,000 annually. Previous fiscal officer Rick Quay left the position earlier this month for a new employment opportunity.

Council also approved a resolution accepting about $147,000 in funding through the Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program to demolish blighted structures in the village.

In other city business:

• Justice reported the new Dollar General Store on Canton Road could be open by the end of the month; Tractor Supply signed the final lease papers to open a location in the Lakemore Plaza; and traffic lights are in the process of being installed at the corner of Springfield Lake Drive and Canton Road.

He also said the Fashion Bug would be leaving the Lakemore Plaza soon, but he was told a replacement store, similar to Fashion Bug, would fill the storefront.

• The village will hold a costume party for children Oct. 27 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Municipal Building. That night, trick or treat will take place in the village from 5 to 7 p.m.

• The Lakemore Fire Association announced it would hold its annual pancake breakfast, by donation, Oct. 27 from 9 a.m. to noon.

The next regular Lakemore Village Council meeting will be Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Municipal Building.

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