Gratis in good financial standing with auditor

By Kelsey Kimbler -

GRATIS — According to Village of Gratis Mayor David Johnston, the village has met deadlines given to them by the county auditor and are in good standing once again. As previously reported, the village had failed to file final appropriations for 2018 and a 2019 budget with the auditor.

Auditor Lavon Wright informed village officials, if they did not complete four tasks they could lose funding for 2019. It was explained, if all four tasks were completed in a timely manner, the village would lose no revenue for 2018 or 2019.

First, council had to approve a certificate of the total amounts from all sources available for 2018 and the appropriation budget for 2018. For 2019, they had to approve the projected tax budget and a resolution accepting the amounts and rates.

During a council meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, Mayor Johnston said the village had supplied all of the required documentation needed to put them in good standing with the auditor.

“Everything is filed with the county auditor. When I asked the other day, Becky [Wilson] said she got everything back and everything is taken care of. We still have other things to straighten out and to get done, but not to do with that,” Johnston said.

“I talked to the auditor myself and she is claiming the same thing. They have everything and it is done.”

Kathy Lewis requested to speak during public participation. She was concerned with an omission in the meeting minutes for Aug. 16. During that meeting, there was a discussion with Solicitor Brian Muenchenbach on case law regarding the appointment of Charles Wiggington.

“There was a large discussion with the solicitor about case law that superseded the Ohio Revised Code that allowed a tied vote on the appointment of Charles,” she said. “This entire discussion was omitted from the minutes. I am just wondering why, because minutes have to reflect information so the public knows why we’re making decisions.

“I have the minutes here. It says, ‘Doug abstains due to the fact he has an interest. There is a tie, so due to the tie David Johnston can break the tie and David says yes.’ That is all that is in the minutes. None of the discussion about how we came to this conclusion.

“Ohio Revised Code says that to pass a motion, you have to have majority vote of the members present. Not a majority of those voting just yes or no. At the Aug. 16 meeting, we had five people there: there were two yes votes, two no votes, and one abstention that was Doug. That was to appoint Charles [Wiggington].

“Your solicitor said he had case law, that said if a council member had a personal interest in a matter, they were disqualified and do not count in those present. Because of that advice, the vote was determined to be a tie with four members, instead of the five that were present.”

She added, she is disputing that the vote was truly a tie. According to Lewis, in later meetings the council members abstaining from vote were counted as present, when the vote was based on those present.

She requested to see a copy of the case law that Solicitor Muenchenbach referred to, noting she has previously asked for the documentation, to which Muenchenbach replied it was “attorney client privilege.”

She added, in October, Wiggington was appointed to council since there had been questions about the validity of the previous vote.

“This council needs to think about whether Charles has properly been appointed to the council. If not, all of his votes are invalid and jeopardizes the council’s ability to conduct business. Any time Charles’ vote was needed to waive the three readings and pass legislation, that legislation would be void,” Lewis said.

“That is a problem considering the recent developments when you were waiving the three readings consistently and passing them as an emergency to get them to the county auditor. My whole reason for coming tonight is, this council needs to think about what went on here.

“It seems like we’re manufacturing law to satisfy a certain agenda. We just need to follow the law. If the solicitor has case law to justify what we did at the Aug. 16 meeting, I will respect that — I am fine with it. Not to produce it, saying attorney client privilege when it was in a public meeting — case law is a public thing, it is not like it is secret. Just produce it. Otherwise, we’re going to have to do this the hard way, which is to file a complaint. Which we’ve done in the past.”

In other news:

•Council voted to run an ad with Journal News for their open Fiscal Officer position at a cost of $356. To run the full ad, it would cost $635, so council voted to reduce the ad for a reduced price.

•Council voted to approve the dues for Ohio Municipal League 2019 Membership at a cost of $355.

•Council approved the Yearly Fire Package Subscription in the amount of $1,420.

•Council approved the dunking booth trailer as excess and agreed to donate it to the Fire Association.

•Santa will be at the Marathon gas station (Franklin St. Deli) on Saturday, Dec 22, from noon until 1 p.m. Santa Claus will also make his way through Gratis Village, West Elkton, and Gratis Township on that date.

The next regular Gratis Council meeting will be held on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m.

By Kelsey Kimbler

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH

Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH