The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

May 4, 2012

Conneaut councilman rethinks plan

CONNEAUT —  An at-large city councilman who early last month requested legislation that would empower City Council to remove members of boards and commissions “with or without just cause” is rethinking the proposal, he said Thursday.

Neil LaRusch said a council-implemented law would not be necessary if the individual panels addressed removal processes in their bylaws. “Boards are capable of handling these types of situation,” he said.

Last month, Law Director David Schroeder strongly recommended the matter be sent to committee to hash out the contents before it’s put into ordinance form. LaRusch said the matter will get committee attention, but said there are other matters — like a looming budget crisis — that are more urgent.

“We’ve got so much coming up,” he said. “It’s on the back burner. Maybe at the end of summer.”

LaRusch said he welcomes the chance to work with boards, commissions and committees to address the issue. He has already spoken to some of them, he said.

“It’s been a good chance to talk to the people who serve,” LaRusch said.

Some people have praised his initiative, while others — including his fellow council members — have been wary of the “with or without just cause” provision. LaRusch said he understood the concern, adding if the ordinance does proceed, language would oblige council to show just cause to remove a board member, he said.

The call for legislation has upset some board members, LaRusch acknowledged. It was not his intent to demean or denigrate the work done by the many residents who serve — often without pay — on government panels, and he has apologized to those offended by the initiative, he said.

“These people do a lot of our legwork,” LaRusch said.

LaRusch has never said what motivated him to request the ordinance. His remarks came shortly after criticism of City Council’s stance on a pending rezoning issue leveled by the chairman of the city’s Planning Commission. Other council members supported LaRusch’s motion directing the law department to prepare the legislation, but the issue hasn’t resurfaced since.

“It was an emotional response to a situation,” he said. “I should have put more thought into it.”

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