Disquieting, disturbing, and disrespected were the words expressed by former Annexation and Development Committee members when describing how Liberty Township trustees handled disbanding the committee.
“Things shouldn’t be done under the cloak of darkness,” said John Hartman, a former committee member. He said the manner in which the trustees handled disbanding the committee felt very “unreal and disquieting,” and the members of the committee were “frozen out of the process.”
Formation of the committee was approved by trustees April 17, 2017, and according to members of the committee, the first meeting was held near the end of August.
In a special meeting Jan. 30, trustees sought to disband the all-volunteer committee but delayed the action by tabling the resolution. Trustees pulled the resolution from the table Feb. 20, disbanded the committee, and approved a different resolution creating the Sawmill Parkway Development Committee.
Neither of the resolutions, the one disbanding the committee or the one creating the Sawmill Parkway Development Committee, appeared on the trustees’ Feb. 20 meeting agenda.
“I don’t know what to think,” Hartman said. “I felt like we were being disrespected in the whole process.”
When Hartman got wind that trustees might pull the resolution from the table and disband the committee, he wrote a letter to be read into the record of the meeting.
When Liberty Township Administrator Matt Huffman asked to read Hartman’s letter into the meeting record, Trustee Melanie Leneghan quickly dismissed reading it.
“No thank you,” she told Huffman. “If he’s not here to talk, that’s okay. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Trustee Shyra Eichhorn interrupted moving to the vote and said, “He’s a resident that has put his time and effort in for the last seven months. I’m not sure why he can’t be here, but I think we really should show the respect and courtesy to at least read it.”
The letter was not read into the record of the meeting.
“I am hard pressed to remember a time when publicly elected officials didn’t respond to their constituents,” said Hartman. “It doesn’t feel like they are behaving like public officials.”
Trustees Mike Gemperline and Leneghan voted to approve disbanding the committee with Eichhorn voting against the measure.
Since that time, Hartman has sent four emails to Leneghan and Gemperline but has not received a response from either. He said he would like to sit with them to “talk about the rationale of them not willing to read my letter into the record.”
“My first concern is their refusal to communicate with me as a constituent and one who was appointed to a committee by the trustees,” he said. “My second concern is government secrecy.”
Greg Tunis said he attended the Feb. 20 meeting because members were aware that trustees were going to disband the committee.
“I was very surprised that the letter was not read,” he said.
Tunis said the committee had done their homework, gathering information to better understand the impact of development in the community.
“I wish that it hadn’t been disbanded before our preliminary report was completed, because it would have been nice to present our work,” he said. “The work that they are now asking to be done is important work, but there are other things that are needed in the community. Our understanding was that the trustees were looking for input, so we put a lot of time into it. There is still a lot of work to do.”
“It was handled poorly,” Tunis said about the way trustees disbanded the committee.
Jaymie Kottenstette said she has lived in the Liberty Township and Powell area for 18 years. She said her background is in economic development, and she had served as a member on City of Powell’s Comprehensive Plan Committee.
“I came to this committee with some very sound opportunities considering my background,” she said. “What I bring to the table more than anything is a positive outlook.”
Kottenstette said in her opinion, the committee was “doing a sound job for the trustees.”
“I thought we were working for all the trustees — not one or two — a couple of them saw things only from their perspective,” she said. “It seemed like an overnight dismissal. How does this look to the constituents from the community?”