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YOUNGSTOWN COUNCIL Appointment proposal protested



Published: Sat, April 6, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



Another council meeting on the ordinances is set for 5 p.m. Monday.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Several dozen people, some of them carrying protest signs, gathered Friday evening at city hall as council gave second reading to ordinances that would give council the authority to appoint the council president and any council member in case of a midterm vacancy.

The signs, prepared by ACTION, a faith-based community improvement advocacy organization, read "What about public input?," "Why appoint rather than elect?" and "What about accountability?"

With Councilmen John R. Swierz, D-7th, and Ron Sefcik, D-4th, absent, and only five councilmen present, the six required votes to bring the measures up for final passage Friday were not available.

As was the case Thursday evening, council met for five minutes in a special meeting, without reading the measures aloud or explaining or debating them or seeking public comment.

Council will conduct another special meeting at 5 p.m. Monday to consider giving them a third reading and final passage. Monday's meeting has been scheduled for the law department's fourth-floor conference room at city hall, but James E. Fortune Sr., council president pro tem, said it might be moved to a municipal courtroom to accommodate city residents who are interested in the issue.

Advice of law director: Council began considering the legislation after Law Director Robert E. Bush Jr. advised that it had the authority to do so.

Bush's opinion followed the issuance of an opinion from Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains that the vacancy in the city council presidency should be filled by the city's 123 Democratic precinct committee members.

A meeting of those committee members is set for 7 p.m. April 18 at the Saxon Club.

The vacancy occurred when Charles P. Sammarone resigned to become city water commissioner. Swierz and Bush have both said the matter will likely end up in court.

After Friday's meeting ended, a brief exchange occurred between Fortune and Patrick Lowry, who lost to Sammarone in last year's Democratic primary for council president.

"Will you be willing to answer any questions?" Lowry asked Fortune concerning Monday's meeting.

"I'll answer questions after the meeting is over," Fortune replied.

"You'll face the people on this," Lowry said.

"It's not facing the people. It's just that we don't normally get into questions and answers. You well know that," Fortune replied, saying he didn't wish to enter into a debate.

milliken@vindy.com




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