A magistrate ruled that the Craig Beach mayor negligently damaged a councilman's eyeglasses during a meeting.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- A magistrate has ruled that Craig Beach Mayor Camillo C. Gaia III must pay $98 to Councilman Larry Ellis for breaking the councilman's eyeglasses during a village council meeting.
Magistrate William J. Kish ruled in Wednesday in Mahoning County Court in Austintown that Gaia negligently caused the damage and must pay $98 plus costs and interest. The mayor has 14 days to object to the ruling and request the matter be heard before a judge.
Ellis had requested $150 in a small claims complaint filed July 23.
"At a Craig Beach Village Council meeting Camille Gaia dropped/threw a book on the table and smashed my eye glasses," the complaint reads.
The mayor spells his first name two ways, one ending in "o" and the other with an "e."
The incident occurred at a May 31 emergency council meeting during a debate over procedure regarding a motion to adjourn.
What happened: A thick, soft-covered village code book fell from a dais where the mayor sits down onto a table where council members sit.
The 8.5-by-11-inch book landed on Ellis' eyeglass frames, knocking out a lens.
"Sometimes liars win," Gaia said Wednesday evening in response to the ruling. "Accidents happen. His glasses got busted. A book fell off the ledge."
At Wednesday's hearing, Gaia told the magistrate he had set the book on a ledge and it fell onto Ellis' glasses, court records show. Councilman Dennis Champion testified that he saw Gaia toss the book, causing it to slide over the ledge.
"I'm just glad that justice prevailed," Ellis said. "I don't know that they were broken intentionally, but they were broken and needed to be fixed."
Ellis, a 24-year-old school teacher at Mount Carmel School in Niles, had filed a police report regarding the matter.
He told police he was unable to see or drive without the glasses and may miss a day of work. Ellis said he did not miss work -- he was able to get a ride and retrieve a back-up pair of glasses he kept at the school.
Cost: Also in the court file were estimates of eyeglass costs: A Wal-Mart estimate showed frames costing $98 and lenses, $50; an estimate from the Vision Center in Youngstown, showed that frames would cost $110 and lenses, $80.
The incident followed debate over a village income tax supported by Gaia, who said it would bring the village $70,000.
Champion and Ellis had unsuccessfully voted against a motion to create the 1 percent tax. Three council members voted for the tax. One seat was vacant. Residents have since petitioned for a referendum on the issue and will vote on the matter in November.
Ellis and Champion are political foes of Gaia, with both councilmen recently seeking the mayor's resignation. Council meetings often are marked by snide comments and heated debate, sometimes escalating to shouting.
Following a July meeting, both Gaia and Champion made complaints to the Mahoning County Sheriff's Department, each accusing the other man of poking him.
The alleged incident occurred outside the municipal building as the two argued over when paychecks for village workers are to be issued.