Hilliard City Council will meet at 2:30 p.m. today, Jan. 30, at the Hilliard Municipal Building, 3800 Municipal Way, for the purpose of naming a president and vice president and appointing a seventh member.
It is unclear whether a mediation session ordered by Judge Mark Serrott at 1 p.m. still will be held but an agreement has been reached to resolve the legal action three council members have taken in an effort to prevent President Nathan Painter from appointing a new member, said council member Les Carrier.
"We have a deal," he said. "I think everyone is happy or as happy as we can be. (The agreement) shows we can reach a compromise."
Al Iosue is expected to be voted in as the new president and Kelly McGivern chosen as vice president, Carrier said. After the leaders are in place, City Council is expected to vote on Pete Marsh as the replacement for Joe Erb, who resigned in December.
Carrier said although he would have preferred different leaders – he voted for Teater as president and Baker as vice president during the previous leadership votes – “we can’t keep fighting.”
"This agreement is good for the city," he said.
How council members reached an agreement to hold a meeting and who would be elected as officers remains unclear. Ohio’s open-meetings law requires that any decisions by members of a municipal government body be made at a public meeting.
The compromise was reached by City Council members conferring individually, Carrier said, acknowledging Ohio's open-meetings mandate.
The deal comes after a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to challenge law director Tracy Bradford’s legal opinion that Painter remained president and to block him from acting in that capacity was filed the morning of Jan. 25 in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas by the Hilliard-based Lardiere McNair law firm on behalf of council members Tom Baker, Andy Teater and Carrier.
That afternoon, Serrott issued a stay and scheduled the mediation.
The council's six members have failed at three consecutive meetings to name officers for 2018, deadlocking 3-3 in every vote. They also deadlocked along the same lines – Baker, Carrier and Teater against Al Iosue, Kelly McGivern and Painter – when trying to name a replacement for Erb.
Now more than 45 days have passed since Erb left, leaving the decision on his successor in the council president's hands, per the city charter, Bradford has ruled.
“In light of lengthy discussions and input from all members of council over the last two weeks but in particularly the last four days, I am comfortable and confident that in calling a meeting (Jan. 30), we will resolve certain issues,” Painter said Jan. 23.
The meeting originally was called as a "special meeting" when clerk Lynne Fasone emailed it at 7:14 p.m. Jan. 29.
ThisWeek asked Bradford how a special meeting could be called with less than 24 hours' notice to the media.
Section 121.22(F) of the Ohio Revised Code states: "Every public body, by rule, shall establish a reasonable method whereby any person may determine the time and place of all regularly scheduled meetings and the time, place, and purpose of all special meetings. A public body shall not hold a special meeting unless it gives at least twenty-four hours' advance notice to the news media that have requested notification, except in the event of an emergency requiring immediate official action. In the event of an emergency, the member or members calling the meeting shall notify the news media that have requested notification immediately of the time, place, and purpose of the meeting."
The notice did not designate it as an "emergency" meeting.
Bradford told ThisWeek it was a special meeting that was "called under the emergency provision in order to deal with the items on the agenda, which are also matters of the pending litigation. We will be communicating with the court tomorrow morning regarding the special meeting and our hopes of resolving all matters."
She also contended that council members could waive the 24-hour notice at the meeting.
"There isn’t any legislation on the agenda that requires any advance notice or a public hearing,” Bradford said. “We need to have the meeting tomorrow afternoon because of travel commitments by a couple of the council members, starting tomorrow evening. We need all council members for the meeting so it was necessary to have the meeting as soon as possible.”
However, Fasone sent a new notice at 10:27 a.m. designating the meeting as an "emergency special meeting" and outlining the reasons for doing so.
As for the new seventh council member, Marsh, a landscape designer and chairman of the Hilliard Environmental Sustainability Commission, was among five new-member nominations that met deadlock votes Jan. 22, prompting the lawsuit. The others were Scott Brown, Johnny Dawson, Michael-lynn Evans and Kurt Gearhiser.
For more on the lawsuit, read previous coverage and check ThisWeekNEWS.com/Hilliard for updates.