SALINEVILLE-A special meeting called by village council Thursday night became heated, at times, but ended with council approving the hiring of two new village employees.
The first personnel decision to come before council was the hiring of K-9 officer Matthew Devlin of Akron and his partner, "Bella."
A suggestion to council to hire the K-9 unit actually was made by Police Chief Andrew Straley several months ago, however, because Mayor Mary Smith missed the previous two council meetings, council was not able to take action. The mayor must make the official recommendation.
Council members said they were in favor of hiring the K-9 unit, noting a narcotics dog would be a great asset in combating drug use in the village.
The mayor agreed with council that a new officer would be an asset to the village, but she questioned what liability issues might come with having a police dog. She asked if council had spoken with the village's insurance provider to research any potential liability issues. Council responded by saying the insurance company only provides information to the mayor or the fiscal officer.
"I think it's a great idea, but I'm not going to do anything about the dog until we speak to the insurance company," said Smith.
Village Solicitor Andy Beech advised council members that in terms of insurance, hiring a K-9 was a matter of making sure the village carried the necessary type of coverage while also making any necessary changes in village policy.
Council ultimately voted, at this time, to hire Devlin without "Bella" until council members could contact the village's insurance provider and work out any potential liability issues.
"We'll get the insurance figured out. It's just a formality," said councilman Brian Tedeschi.
The next personnel issue was hiring a new fiscal officer. Council members said they were in favor of hiring a candidate, who, during the interview process, had stated she lived nearby and could be available during the day. However, Smith pointed out that this candidate lacked UAN training and would need extensively trained by current Fiscal Officer Becky Tolson, who is set to resign at the end of the month.
"We can't afford to have someone not knowing what they're doing," said Councilman Brian Zaverl.
Still, several council members spoke in favor of the candidate, who was not named.
"We can't hire someone who isn't going to be here," said Tedeschi, noting that he wanted a person who was available at least three days a week.
Smith suggested another candidate, Patrica Gibson of Petersburg, Ohio, who currently serves as Springfield Township's fiscal officer.
Smith noted the state's audit of the village had recently been stopped because the village's books could not be balanced. She said with that fact, along with the position involving the running of complicated accounting software, the best choice was someone like Gibson, who had the necessary experience.
"With the situation we're in right now, I think we need somebody who can come in and hit the ground running," said Smith
Council voted unanimously to hire Gibson as village fiscal officer, effective June 30. Council said they will arrange for Gibson to be trained by Tolson before taking over as fiscal officer.