It took the mayor 65 minutes to read the 1 percent income tax ordinance aloud.
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
CRAIG BEACH -- Village residents can plan on paying a 1 percent village income tax beginning July 1.
In an emergency meeting filled with heated debate, in which tempers flared even on procedural matters, village council voted 3-2 Thursday to approve the tax, which is to take effect in 30 days. One council seat is vacant.
Voting in favor of the tax were council members George Meleski, who made the motion for it, Catherine Finney, who seconded the motion, and Yvonne Andrews.
Voting against were Councilmen Dennis Champion and Larry Ellis. "I feel that there is no need for this," Champion said of the tax. Champion said he thinks it is being imposed only to allow Mayor Camille Gaia and the three council members favoring it to hire their friends for village jobs.
But Gaia said the tax, which will raise $70,000 a year, is necessary to provide services to village residents. The tax will go toward the police and street departments and village administration and paying for a state audit.
Objection at start: As the meeting convened, Ellis protested Thursday's meeting, complaining that he, Champion and the public didn't get proper notice of the meeting and that the tax was sent through the three readings required for passage within a mere seven days.
Because the meetings on May 24 and Tuesday, at which the tax ordinance received first and second readings, respectively, were special meetings, and Thursday's meeting was an emergency meeting, Ellis complained the public didn't get a chance to comment on the tax.
"This is a very important issue. You're imposing a tax. The public has a right to speak about a tax. By doing it this way, the public cannot speak," Champion said.
Ellis said the tax was invalidly passed because the May 29 meeting lacked a quorum, which he said was four council members, at the time second reading was given to the tax. Champion, who was present for the start of that meeting, walked out after protesting what he said was inadequate notification of the meeting, leaving only three council members present when the tax got a second reading that day.
Ellis and Champion have written letters to Ohio Attorney General Betty D. Montgomery and J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio secretary of state, outlining their objections.
Mayor's response: The mayor said that he tax was validly passed and that he met all notification requirements for Thursday's meeting. He also said a village attorney told him three council members constitute a quorum. The mayor said no public comment period is required in special and emergency meetings and that quick consideration of the tax was a financial necessity.
Saying the public needed to be fully informed about the tax, Ellis asked the mayor to read aloud the entire tax ordinance, which consists of 10 pages of fine print. It took the mayor 65 minutes to read the ordinance.
Police report: During a procedural debate over a motion to adjourn, a thick village code book fell from the dais, where the mayor sits, and bent Ellis' eyeglass frame, knocking out a lens. Ellis filed a police report accusing the mayor of throwing the book onto his glasses. The mayor said he merely placed the book on the edge of the dais, and it fell as Ellis tried to grab it.
In other action, by the same 3-2 vote alignment, council appointed Richard Watson, who is now temporary police chief, as full-time police chief for one year, beginning July 1, at $340 a week.