A legal technicality has brought a village solicitor’s contract back for review before Oak Harbor Village Council.
Council approved the two-year contract with Kocher & Gillum law firm of Port Clinton on June 2 after a heated discussion. Members felt Mayor Bill Eberle hastily tried to push the contract through by introducing it in passing conversation as the May 19 meeting came to end and then setting it for a second reading with an emergency passage request at the June 2 meeting.
Council met in executive session to speak to the firm’s representative, Jim Barney, and returned for a vote. Council then approved the emergency clause, waived the third reading and approved the contract.
The contract expired June 7 but there were no ramifications for exceeding the date, according to the mayor. The firm has represented the village about four years.
The contract’s third reading appeared on the agenda of last Monday’s council meeting.
Eberle explained a copy of the contract had been sent to council members by email but added: “We did not have enough present to waive the third reading.”
“I blew it,” he added.
Councilman Jim Seaman did not attend the June 2 meeting because of illness. That left five members. Councilman Jon Fickert was the sole dissenter against using the emergency clause and waiving the third reading. In order to invoke the emergency clause, approval of three-fourths of the full council or five votes is required. But council believed they had passed the measure.
“There really was no rush,” Fickert explained later. “The mayor said himself there was no reason it had to be approved now. There were no ramifications.”
It was Fickert, however, who let others know in the days after the meeting that the vote was illegal.
Councilwoman Sue Rahm said she still has issues with the new contract she had received. Specifically, she pointed out, in the evaluation notation it provides that the mayor solely does the solicitor evaluation. “Shouldn’t council be part of that?” she asked.
Eberle agreed and said the change would be added.
Then Rahm turned to Barney seated next to her and asked if he knew the vote had been illegal.
He didn’t. “I am a lot of things, Sue … I’m not perfect,” Barney said.
Perfection is not something she expected of anyone, Rahm continued.
Still, “His answer is not comforting to me. This is such a minor thing. I’m a little leery for other issues,” Rahm told the others.
She also wasn’t convinced her suggested revisions, such as the evaluation change, would make it into the text of the final contract. “What assurance do I have this will get done?” she asked.
The mayor asked council to read the legislation and then table it for discussion later.
Fickert again asked what spurred a rush in action. He added he didn’t think council could read legislation then table it.
Councilwoman Jackie Macko added she would like to see an original copy of the contract given to each member with the corrections council had made marked in red ink or some other detail to help them decipher the text changes.
The mayor agreed. Council voted 5-0 to table the issue. Councilman Don Douglas had been excused from the meeting.
Two organizations have expressed interest in the Lakeshore Drive property owned by the village on the west side of Port Clinton, along the Lake Erie shoreline, Village Administrator Randy Genzman told council.
Village officials have ramped up efforts in recent months to sell the property, which the village has owned since 1938.
Genzman said he had put the two parties in touch with one another so that they might possibly work together rather than against one another regarding a purchase.
About five of the eight acres is a wetlands area.
Council members asked Genzman if he had contacted the owners of the neighboring campground that appears to be encroaching on the property. Genzman said he had not. Surveyors sent there had been working off old paperwork and he wanted to make sure he had everything in order before he approached the business owners.
Fickert said he believed that encroachment had to be resolved somehow before a deed transfer could take place – whether the campground owners pay for the land or the new owners sign some waiver.
The solicitor agreed the dispute had to be resolved prior to a sale.