Council concerned with mayor’s absence

SALINEVILLE-Mayor Mary Smith missed Monday’s village council meeting, her second consecutive absence, and council members took the opportunity to voice their displeasure.

Smith sent a text message to village solicitor Andy Beech shortly before the start of Monday’s meeting, telling him to inform council she would not be in attendance. The mayor also missed the previous meeting, May 19, due to work responsibilities.

It was noted that no member of council was contacted by the mayor or made aware that she would not be available for the meeting. Council members said communication between themselves and the mayor has been lacking of late.

“What’s going on, don’t we have a mayor anymore?” asked Councilman Brian Tedeschi.

During the safety portion of Monday’s meeting, the subject of hiring a K-9 officer to the village police department arose. Police Chief Andrew Straley had made his recommendation at the previous meeting in May to hire Matthew Devlin of Akron and his canine partner, Bella, on a part-time basis. However, Smith, who has final approval on the hiring of village employees, was not present to make that decision. Council expressed its frustration at being unable to hire the K-9 officer, whom they say would be a great asset to the village police department.

“We have to have a special meeting (to hire an officer), and get when she’s going to be here-we can’t have this anymore,” said Zaverl.

Council also vented its frustration at allegedly not being included during the interviewing process for a new fiscal officer and council clerk.

Current Fiscal Officer Becky Tolson turned in her resignation in the spring and her final day is at the end of this month. Council member Nancy Needham has been filling in as clerk and taking minutes at council meetings while the village searches for a replacement.

“How are we going to sit in on it (the interview) if she doesn’t tell us?” questioned Councilman Jim Wilson.

Contacted for comment following Monday’s meeting, Smith said she has simply been busy with work responsibilities, and had no choice but to miss the council meetings.

Addressing the allegation of avoiding council members, the mayor stated she does not intentionally avoid council members and always returns phone calls within 24 hours. She said she had contacted both Beech and Tolson to tell them she would not be attending Monday. Smith pointed out that she had missed only three meetings in her two years as mayor.

As to the K-9 unit, Smith said although she and the chief have communicated since the May 19 meeting, he never mentioned the subject to her and she had not heard about any recommended hire made at that council meeting.

Smith also denied trying to shut council members out of the hiring process, saying she had previously welcomed them to attend the interviews. The mayor said she has been waiting on Tolson to be available to attend the interviews before she started the process. Smith added she would likely begin interviewing candidates on Thursday.