Late Breaking

History repeats

Portsmouth copies play from 2004, once again appointing Albrecht to 4th Ward

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By Nikki Blankenship

Scioto County Candor

 

In 2004, in the wake of the Marting’s scandal, a mayoral recall and a Sunshine Law dispute, Portsmouth City Council nominated a new member of Council to fill the vacancy left after the fallout. Once again recovering from turmoil, Council repeated history.

Monday night, Portsmouth City Council appointed Jerrold Albrecht to the Fourth Ward seat, vacated after former Councilman Jim Kalb resigned. Albrecht has experience serving on Portsmouth City Council.

Albrecht’s first round on Council came just after what has become known as the “Marting’s Scandal,” in which members of City Council, former Mayor Greg Bauer, Martings board member and attorney Clayton Johnson and Martings board member Larry Leiter worked together on a deal to sell the Martings building to the City to house City offices. As reports of misdealings surfaced throughout the community, voters took action by recalling Bauer. Scioto County Common Pleas Court would also rule against Council in case Mollette v. the City of Portsmouth.

“Teresa and Robert Mollette brought this action alleging that the Portsmouth City Council violated the city charter and the Open Meetings Act (R.C. 121.22) when it adopted an ordinance that authorized the mayor to enter into negotiations to purchase a building,” Case No. 07CA3206 reads. “The Mollettes alleged that city council reached its decision after deliberating in private sessions in violation of the charter and the statute. In granting summary judgment in favor of the Mollettes, the trial court invalidated the ordinance and enjoined the city council from deliberating in any executive sessions, i.e., closed to the public.”

Council was also accused of meeting with Leiter, Johnson and other members of the Martings Foundation in private, scheduling meetings in small groups to avoid breaking Sunshine Law. Councilwoman Jo Ann Aeh was the clerk at the time.

According to City Clerk Diana Ratliff, Bauer’s recall put Kalb in the Mayoral seat.

“In 2004 Greg Bauer was Mayor. I believe he was recalled and Jim Kalb took over as Mayor at that point in time,” Ratliff told the Scioto County Candor. “In July of 2004, Jerrold Albrecht was appointed by Council to fill the 4th Ward seat and then at the next election for that ward he won the election and served a 4 year term which expired December 31, 2011.”

On Dec. 18, 2017, Council voted to fire City Manager Derek Allen. As the Allen saga continued, Council was once again accused of violating Sunshine laws with emails between Aeh, Kalb, Councilman Gene Meadows and Councilman Tom Lowe surfacing in which Aeh, Kalb and Meadows discussed the firing of Allen and discussed meeting outside of a public meeting to discuss the matter further. On Jan. 30, City Solicitor John Haas presented Council with an injunction reinstating Allen and ordering Council to follow Ohio’s Open Meetings Act. The public responded to the tension by taking out recall petitions. Since that time Allen has since resigned as City Manager. Tuesday, Allen announced that he would be taking down his City Manager social media page.

“On Februrary 26, 2018 I negotiated a settlement with the City Council to resign my position of City Manager for the City of Portsmouth,” Allen wrote. “Not because any of City Council’s ridiculous allegations were true but because I either took a buy out or leave with nothing. I was reassured whichever path I chose, I would be leaving. City Council had decided long ago that I was not included in their plans.”

Allen continued by saying that he enjoyed being a part of progress within the City and was thankful to the community for their support.

Allen, however, was not the only resignation on Feb. 26. During the evening’s Council meeting, Kalb announced that he too was resigning, leaving a vacancy on Council.

Monday night, Councilman Kevin Johnson was sworn in as Mayor. Council then went into executive session to discuss the appointment of a fourth ward councilman to replace Kalb. Ratliff explained that there were three parties who expressed interest, but one dropped out. The two remaining were Albrecht and Isaac Peed. When Council returned from executive session, Aeh nominated Albrecht for the seat, and Councilman Sean Dunne nominated Peed. Albrecht received four of five votes, with only Dunne voting for Peed.

Albrecht will finish out the remainder of Kalb’s term, which will not go up for vote until 2019.

Before adjourning, Council passed several legislative items including an ordinance authorizing the City Manager (Acting City Manager Sam Sutherland) to enter into a 25-year easement agreement with the State of Ohio or Real Estate and Planning, representing Shawnee State University (SSU); an ordinance authorizing the vacation of the alley between Third St. and Farney Ave.; an ordinance authorizing the transfer of more than $20,000 to the Municipal Court Subsidy Fund; and a resolution authorizing the City of Portsmouth for, accept and enter into a cooperative agreement for construction of the Sunrise Reservoir 30-inch main replacement and pump station project, which was added to the agenda during the meeting.

Portsmouth City Council meets at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. Ratliff announced Monday night that meetings will no longer will be held at SSU and will return to Council Chambers located on the second floor of the Municipal Courthouse on Second Street in Portsmouth.