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CRAIG BEACH Councilman pushes for mayor's ouster



Published: Tue, July 10, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Council will try to determine whether the mayor knew he had received a court notice.

By IAN HILL

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

CRAIG BEACH -- Village Councilman Dennis Champion couldn't get the resignation of Mayor Camille Gaia III on Monday night. So he plans to ask for it in August.

And September. And October. And November.

"I'm going to push it every month," Champion said. "I want him out."

Champion made his first motion asking council to seek Gaia's resignation at a three-hour meeting Monday night. The motion was defeated by a 2-3 vote, with council members Yvonne Andrews, Bob Richards and Catherine Finney dissenting. Councilman Larry Ellis supported the motion. Councilman George Meleski did not attend the meeting.

Memory lapse: Council voted on the motion after Gaia said he didn't remember receiving a letter in October from Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. Champion presented council with a receipt signed by Gaia stating that he had received the letter.

"It is my signature," Gaia said during the meeting. "I must have made a mistake." Champion said that in the past Gaia has told council he did not receive the letter.

The letter set the time and date for a hearing in former village Police Chief Chris Buday's lawsuit against council. Buday has retired and is seeking severance payments. Council members did not show up for the hearing.

Default judgment: As a result, county Common Pleas Court Judge R. Scott Krichbaum issued a default judgment of $11,756 against the lawmakers. Village Solicitor James Vivo later successfully appealed the decision, and the money was placed in a trust fund. Vivo said that he has since met with Buday's attorney to discuss a settlement.

Gaia, meanwhile, said that when he received the letter he was dealing with three lawsuits against the village. He said that in the confusion, the letter may have been misplaced. The village solicitor at the time also may have misplaced the letter, Gaia said.

Bigger motive: He added that he thinks Champion and Ellis are seeking his resignation as part of their efforts to dissolve Craig Beach into Milton Township.

"I look at the source of [the motion] and what they've done for the good of this community," Gaia said. "They're not looking at what's best for the people."

He added that he does not think most Craig Beach residents want him to resign.

Andrews said council's judicial committee would be looking into Champion's allegations in the coming weeks. If the committee determines that Gaia is covering up the facts, they will recommend that he resign, she said.

Also Monday, council:

URemoved a reference to the village's volunteer fire department from a 1.5-mill property tax levy that will appear on the ballot in November. Money generated by the five-year replacement levy would pay for fire services in the village.

The current levy expires at the end of this year.

No answer: Ellis said that in recent weeks Mahoning County 911 dispatchers have been unable to contact village firefighters for several emergencies. Council members said they would ask the village fire chief to speak at their July meeting.

Council may decide to use the levy money to pay for services from the Milton Township fire department or another local department, instead of the Craig Beach department.

UAgreed to put a 3-mill, five-year replacement levy on the November ballot to pay for street repair and construction. The village's street levy also is set to expire at the end of this year.

Tax bills for the replacement levies would be calculated on the most recent assessment of property value in the village. As a result, if a resident's property has increased in value, the owner would pay more tax per mill than in the past.

hill@vindy.com




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