Three trustees — the newly-elected Renee Vaughan, and the currently-serving Karl Gebhardt and Connie Goodman — were sworn in Thursday during the first Genoa Township Board of Trustees meeting of 2020.
Gebhardt said in the township’s most recent newsletter that he, too, wanted to renew his oath of office on an annual basis.
“The oath is to, ‘Support and defend the U.S. Constitution and faithfully execute our duties as a trustee,” Gebhardt wrote. “The authority and duties of townships and township trustees can be found in Title 5 of the Ohio Revised Code. Trustees are bound by the Constitution, federal and state law, as well as any applicable local regulation. I have read, and believe, that the intent of an oath based on the Constitution and law is to protect the public from a government that might fall victim to political whims and to provide a North Star – the Constitution – as a source of direction.”
Vaughan, who was overwhelmingly elected in November, was sworn in first for her four-year term. Vaughan and her family have lived in the township since 2011; she has degrees in special education from the universities of Cincinnati and Pittsburgh; and she became more active “in the community in response to development concerns,” states her bio on Genoa’s website.
When she was finished reciting the oath, many of the attendees, wearing red “Vaughan for Genoa” t-shirts, clapped loudly.
In contrast, Gebhardt and Goodman were sworn in together, to light applause.
Several members of the public praised Vaughan during their 3-minute comment portion, and Galena’s Mayor-elect Jill Love said, “I think we can do some great things together.”
A couple of speakers chided Gebhardt for his newsletter comments, and one said shame on the trustees for cancelling their last meeting of the year, which denied any recognition of outgoing Trustee Frank Dantonio. It was said that both Gebhardt and Goodman were out of town, so there wasn’t a quorum.
Thursday’s first trustees meeting of the new year served as a reorganization meeting. Goodman was elected trustee chair, and Vaughan was elected vice chair after Gebhardt rescinded his nomination by Goodman and nominated Vaughan. Each trustee was nominated and selected to serve as representatives to multiple advisory committees. Vaughan, who was previously on the Fire/Rescue/EMS Advisory Committee, will now be the trustee representative.
Trustees also approved a number of policies, most notably having only one trustees meeting per month, on the first Thursday at 6:30 p.m. In response to a question by Vaughan, Gebhardt and Goodman said if there was a need to have an additional meeting, it could be held the third Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Last year, the trustees had monthly morning and evening meetings, and many members of the public were unable to attend the morning sessions.
One of the speakers said the trustees should halve their salaries, since they were cutting the number of meetings in half.
Most of the policy resolutions were approved unanimously, without discussion. Vaughan was told the trustees met with township department heads in executive session last year about compensating employees.
However, there was one issue that divided the trustees: The hiring of a part-time grant program manager for $700 per month without benefits, which passed by a 2-1 vote. Gebhardt said Genoa resident Jim Barna, an engineer with ODOT, offered his services.
Vaughan said she felt like the trustees were going too fast on the hire, since the topic of grants hadn’t been brought up at recent meetings. A person in the audience said the position should be posted.
“A lot of our trails and park facilities were built with these funds,” Gebhardt said of the need for the hire. Now, Genoa is “leaving money on the table” by not partaking of the grant-writing process, he said. Goodman agreed, saying the offer was “a bargain-basement price,” compared to firms that get a percentage of what’s awarded.
A job description for the position will be acted on in a future meeting.
A couple residents also complained that questions they had asked at the Dec. 16 meeting regarding a proposed consent decree between the township and a property owner had gone unanswered. Many residents are opposed to the proposed development and held a referendum on the zoning.
Goodman said the trustees couldn’t answer the questions due to pending litigation.