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CIVIC CENTER Member believes meeting was illegal



Published: Sat, February 2, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



One member questions whether the talk was legal.

By ROGER G. SMITH

CITY HALL REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Charles P. Sammarone doesn't like how some fellow civic center board members handled a meeting Thursday with consultant Tom Chema.

Sammarone thinks the meeting was illegal.

It wasn't, said board Chairman Robert VanSickle.

The criticism also won't stop him from carrying out his chairman role as he sees fit, VanSickle said Friday.

Chema, expected to be a lead consultant on the project, was to speak to the civic center board Thursday.

Chema asked to talk with him and a few other board members beforehand but didn't say why, VanSickle said.

VanSickle said he, Vice Chairman Gil Peterson and member Claire Maluso expected to be briefed on Chema's talk. Instead, the consultant reportedly told them he wouldn't be working with the city. Chema also said Mayor George M. McKelvey had asked him not to speak before the board, VanSickle said.

Asked for advice: The group then talked for about 45 minutes, VanSickle said, picking Chema's brain on different issues while he was available.

Sammarone objects to a small group of board members having such talks. Once Chema said he wasn't going to speak and why, the discussion should have stopped, Sammarone said. Such talk should be before a committee or the entire board, he said.

"I don't agree with the way they handled it. You're not supposed to operate that way," Sammarone said.

VanSickle and Peterson make up half the board's executive committee, so Sammarone questions if the Ohio Sunshine Law applies. Part of the law says public bodies can't arrange board or committee meetings and talk business without first notifying the public and press.

Based on VanSickle's report to the board, Sammarone's impression is that the meeting was far more than an unexpected gathering.

"It sounded like more than that. It sounded like a meeting was held and a number of things were discussed," he said.

VanSickle said there was no violation and that he was simply carrying out his role as chairman. Board members are free to talk with whomever they like as long as they don't speak for everyone or otherwise obligate the board.

VanSickle referred to McKelvey's mention of meetings he has had with Sammarone. VanSickle said he could question the propriety of that, but won't, since the pair should be able to talk among themselves.

rgsmith@vindy.com




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