CRAIG BEACH Counclmen absences put pay on hold

One councilman skipped the meeting in protest.
CRAIG BEACH -- Village Mayor Camille Gaia III knows what he's going to tell U.S. Department of Labor officials if they ask why village employees aren't getting paid this month.
"Why are they not being paid? Because two councilmen are not showing up to pay them," Gaia said after a special council meeting Wednesday night.
The special meeting was held so council could vote on the village pay ordinance for June. Councilmen Larry Ellis and Dennis Champion didn't attend the meeting.
Champion said that he skipped the meeting to protest the manner in which Robert Richards was appointed to fill a vacancy on council. Richards was appointed by the mayor and sworn in just before Wednesday night's meeting.
Vacancy filled: Gaia said Richards was one of five candidates to fill the unexpired term of Ken Fickey, who resigned in April 2000 because he was moving out of Craig Beach. However, Gaia said the other four candidates dropped out because they were concerned that, as council members, they would be criticized by some residents.
Champion said he feels council should have voted on filling the vacancy during a public meeting. He also described Richards as a "yes man" who "will vote the way [Gaia] wants him to vote."
Yet Gaia said he is legally responsible for filling council vacancies.
Ellis is on vacation.
Not enough votes: As a result, only four council members attended Wednesday's meeting. Five votes are needed to set aside council rules and pass any ordinance, including the one giving employees a pay raise, at one meeting.
Without the five votes, council was able to have only the first reading of the pay ordinance Wednesday. Council must have two more readings before it can pass the ordinance. Gaia said he may call other special meetings in the near future to have the last two readings.
Gaia added that the U.S. Department of Labor has called him to ask why village employees haven't been paid. He said he's "fearing" the labor department might get involved in the approval of the pay ordinance.
At Wednesday's meeting, council also appointed Richard Watson of Youngstown to serve as full-time police chief. The panel also passed an ordinance allowing Watson to serve as chief even though he lives outside Craig Beach.
Watson has served as interim chief since June 2000. He will be paid $340 per week.

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