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Council president refuses to mix with EACH investigation

4/10/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Stephanie Kist

DOWNTOWN AKRON — Akron City Council President Garry Moneypenny (D-Ward 10) said April 7 he won’t appoint a committee yet to examine East Akron Community House (EACH).

Despite the urging of community members, the EACH board and some fellow Council members, Moneypenny said that while EACH is under investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, he won’t have a Council committee — which wouldn’t have investigatory powers, anyway, unless taxpayer money were at stake, he said — “poking around” in the agency’s troubles.

Earlier in the day, Council members received a copy of a letter addressed to Mayor Don Plusquellic from the EACH board requesting more than $357,000 in emergency funds from the city of Akron.

“We are talking about taxpayer money,” Moneypenny cautioned, adding the city has given more than $1.14 million to EACH since 1997.

Councilwoman Linda Omobien (D-at large), herself an executive with an Akron nonprofit agency, pushed for Council members to meet with the board and examine EACH’s proposal, which she said was prepared with input from current Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Mosley-Samples. EACH, she said, has for many years been the “bedrock” of a “deeply impoverished” community, and she said the needs of the East Akron residents must be kept at the forefront.

Moneypenny said the proposal should run through the proper channels, but he is hesitant to form a committee while an investigation is active.

“Right now, we just don’t know what the facts are,” he said.

Council also heard, during public comments, from former Ward 5 Councilman Ken Jones, who said he attempted to work with EACH for years. He said Council should focus on allowing services to continue at EACH’s facility, and not necessarily the continuation of the EACH name. He encouraged Council to do nothing until the investigation runs its course, and he appeared dismayed and angry when he heard EACH was asking the city for $357,000.

In legislative action, Council authorized the city to spend $350,000 on improvements to the Summit Lake Community Center, which will include replacing the heating and air-conditioning system, as well as the roof, and additional interior and exterior updates.

Councilwoman Margo Sommerville (D-Ward 3) said the improvements are intended to complement the new Akron Metropolitan Housing Authority (AMHA) Reach Opportunity Center being constructed adjacent to the community center. It will feature career services and an on-site kindergarten.

The next Akron City Council meeting is scheduled to take place April 14 at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers on the third floor of the Akron Municipal Building, located at 166 S. High St. in Downtown Akron. Committee meetings are set to begin at 2 p.m. that afternoon, also in Council Chambers.

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