Gladstone park board rift goes to Stark County CommissionDueling Gladstone city park boards — one recognized by the city and the other one not — had their fight taken to the Stark County Commission on Tuesday, where the city’s mayor requested Stark County state’s attorney action to begin a criminal investigation into the so-called “unofficial” board.
By: Betsy Simon, The Dickinson Press
Dueling Gladstone city park boards — one recognized by the city and the other one not — had their fight taken to the Stark County Commission on Tuesday, where the city’s mayor requested Stark County state’s attorney action to begin a criminal investigation into the so-called “unofficial” board.
Gladstone Mayor Kurt Martin told the commission Tuesday at its regular meeting at the Stark County Courthouse that he spoke with Stark County State’s Attorney Tom Henning and the sheriff’s office, and he has had issues getting assistance because he’s told the matter is a civil one.
Sheriff Clarence Tuhy said the sheriff’s office just wants to keep the peace and isn’t there to determine who is on the park board.
He suggested getting the Bureau of Criminal Investigation involved if the city wishes to make it a criminal investigation.
“The most frustrating thing that seems to be happening is that there’s a disconnect about who is on the park board, but it is not a disconnect to the city of Gladstone,” Martin said. “We know who is on the park board because we spent many hours after the election determining who is on the park board by working with the League of Cities and the secretary of state.”
According to the city, the Gladstone Park Board members are Monte Martin, president, Joe Miller, vice president, Maureen Roden, secretary-treasurer, Bob Oyloe, board member and Francine Hecker, board member.
Members of the park board not recognized by the city are Erin McGahuey, Lillian Bondell and Gwen Lantz, who were not present at the meeting.
“I think what’s frustrating is that we have to work with officials at the county level who keep saying we don’t know who is on the park board,” Martin said. “I would hope that the county would go by what the secretary of state told us to do.”
The non-city recognized board claims a measure on the June ballot to dissolve the park board should not have been on the ballot.
It also contests how the names were placed on the ballot and demanded the election be deemed invalid.
Martin said the secretary of state made a request to the Attorney General’s Office a week ago, but was told the matter had to be handled through the county state’s attorney.
Commissioner Ken Zander said the commission would do what it could to get the city some assistance.
“But we aren’t attorneys, so we will let the legal minds and the system work,” he said. “But if we can provide a little shove in the background to get things rolling, we certainly will.”
Martin said the park board not recognized by the city has never turned over the checkbook.
“That is a Century Code violation,” he said. “When they’re out of office, they have to turn the checkbook and all their records over to the new park board. They tell us they don’t have any records. They have been collecting fees for two years and today, even on some of the legal documents, they say they have no financial records.”
Lantz told The Dickinson Press after Tuesday’s commission meeting that the city has received all the information requested. She added that the park board sent an audit to the state Tuesday.
“Kurt just doesn’t think they are our minutes that he’s been given,” Lantz said.
McGahuey also said after the meeting that the only requested items not handed over were the checkbook and checkbook register.
“Open records requests are civil matters, not criminal, so the state’s attorney has nothing to do with it,” she said. “I talked to (the state’s attorney) after the election and he said it’s a secretary of state thing.”
Martin said the city-recognized park board can’t conduct business because the “unofficial” park board won’t hand over the federal ID number. It has also hired an attorney, Sandra Kuntz, to sue the other board in order to obtain records and find out where the money they’ve collected for the park is.
Commissioner Duane Wolf said it appeared that Gladstone needed a court order issued, but it would have to come from the state’s attorney and a judge.
Kuntz said the initial request for the documents was made informally, as is required by Century Code, but there was no response.