The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 26, 2013

Law director decision must wait

By MARK TODD - mtodd@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

CONNEAUT —  A shortage of City Council members Monday night immediately thwarted plans to hire ex-city law director David Schroeder to oversee legalities involving Conneaut's new housing demolition program.

Because only five members were present ‚ absent were Councilman-at-Large John Roach and Ward 2 Councilman Phil Garcia — council lacked the six votes needed to rescind the three-reading rule for legislation in first and second reading. As a result, more than a dozen measures must wait for another meeting.

Among them is a contract with Schroeder to handle housing work under the Move Ohio Forward program, which provides the city $150,000 to flatten dilapidated houses and buildings. While law director, Schroeder became very familiar with the program, said City Manager Tim Eggleston.

The pending contract would pay Schroeder $2,500 plus expenses monthly, a total payment expected to cap at around $10,000, to handle title searches and other matters related to the demolition program. Earlier this month, Schroeder became the Western County Court's newest judge, obliging him to step down as Conneaut's law director, a job he had held for nearly three years. The judgeship is a part-time job, allowing Schroeder to maintain an outside law practice.

Another ordinance moved to another reading would adjust the salaries paid the law director and assistant law director. The former position would receive $47,000 (down from the $52,000 paid Schroeder), while the latter would pay $33,826, up from $28,800.

Carly Prather, the city's assistant law director the past two years, is serving as interim director and would receive the $47,000 salary until the MOF program is completed sometime this summer, Eggleston said. At that time, Eggleston will appoint a panel that would interview candidates for the law director job, he said.

A special meeting of City Council is expected to be held to expedite the Schroeder contract and law director/assistant law director salary changes.

Three ordinances in their third and final reading did see a vote Monday, including the much-debated tree/shrub ordinance for the city. That measure was approved by a 3-2 vote.

City administrators and other proponents said the measure sets in black and white a wide range of rules and regulations regarding tree care and upkeep, while its detractors objected to the inclusion of language that stipulates maintenance of trees in tree lawns is the responsibility of landowners — not the Public Works Department.