NEWTON FALLS Mayor decides to stay in office

One change would limit public comments during council meetings.
NEWTON FALLS -- Patrick D. Layshock remains the city's mayor.
Layshock had threatened to resign if legislation limiting his authority was approved by council.
Legislation sponsors had said that an ordinance changing the city charter was to clarify council's rules and procedures and the roles of the mayor and council.
The ordinance would have clarified whether the mayor is a full member of council or a member of council with restrictions.
Under the charter, the mayor is the ceremonial head of the city, presides over council meetings and votes only in the case of a tie.
Full council members write and sponsor ordinances and resolutions.
The mayor is a council member with restrictions, according to Councilman Ralph Gillespie, one of the sponsors of the initial legislation.
When to vote: The mayor may vote in cases of a tie and can introduce legislation. Gillespie considers an introduction of legislation separate for sponsoring legislation. Sponsoring is restricted to full council members, Gillespie has said.
Councilman Lester R. Irwin, who served as mayor from 1980-87, amended sections of the ordinance to allow the mayor to place any items of legislation on the agenda, but Layshock would still not be able to move or second motions.
"Allowing the mayor [Layshock] to make legislation isn't anything new. This has been done in the past when I was mayor," Irwin said.
Council unanimously passed that amendment.
Limited comments: Another section of the ordinance was to limit to three minutes public comments during council meetings.
Public comments at the beginning of the meeting would be limited to items on the agenda, and those at the end of the session are open to any topics.
"Debates or exchanges between a speaker and a public offical[s] shall be avoided," according to the proposed change.
"It is our meeting. It's not their meeting," Gillespie said about the public having their say. "They gave up that right when they elected representatives.''
Last week, Gillespie pointed to how Congress and the White House conduct business as a comparison. Although the White House and the Capitol belong to the people, the people aren't given free reign to participate in the proceedings, he said.
Councilman Dillwynn H. Stevens, who stated he is opposed to 90 percent of the ordinance, attempted a vote to remove the portions of the proposed changes regarding public comments.
That amendment failed.
Council then voted 3-2 to adopt the new ordinance with the changes regarding the mayor's authority. Because of the changes, the ordinance will be discussed again during the 7 p.m. April 15 council meeting.
Reactions: The room, packed with residents, groaned in disappointment about the lack of a final vote. Some council members stated they wanted to make even more changes to the charter before it comes back in front of the public.
Layshock responded, "If you look at council's rules vs. the charter, the charter specifically states you can't pass an ordinance or resolution that supersedes the charter; only voters can change the charter. Council should be looking at rules for themselves."
Irwin expects a vote on the legislation at the April 15 meeting.
"We plan to pass this ordinance at the next meeting, and I feel that the public is confused about what ability the mayor has to vote in council. He is only able to vote to break a tie. That's it," Irwin said after the meeting.
Council also indicated it would likely spend $27,000 to establish a skate park. Lawmakers said they were impressed with the young people who have been helping to make skate park a reality.

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