AUSTINTOWN Proposal targets Babylon dispute
Trustees delayed rescinding the resolution during the settlement talks.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- Township trustees have been given information about a possible settlement in the dispute over the township's strip club resolution.
Township Administrator Michael Dockry said the Mahoning County Prosecutor's Office sent trustees the information this week.
Dockry said township officials want to talk to the prosecutor's office about the settlement before discussing it with the public.
The resolution, approved Sept. 23, requires strip club owners, strippers and other club employees to get a license to work in the township.
Local residents and representatives of The Babylon club had submitted petitions to the Mahoning County Board of Elections to place the resolution on the November 2003 ballot.
Considering a vote
Trustees are considering voting Monday to place the resolution on the ballot. Dockry said trustees are required by law to place the resolution on the ballot once the board of elections certifies the petitions.
The board certified 1,458 signatures on the petitions; 1,400 are needed to place the resolution on the ballot.
Dockry said the prosecutor's office has been discussing the resolution on behalf of the township with attorneys for The Babylon and Club 76. The Babylon is on Javit Court, while Club 76 is on Seventy-six Drive.
Assistant prosecutors Linette Stratford and Karen Markulin Gaglione, who have been working with the township on the resolution, could not be reached to comment.
Atty. Scott Cochran, who represents The Babylon, also would not discuss details of the settlement proposal. He said, however, that he was optimistic the dispute could be resolved.
Trustees have said they hope the resolution will limit the negative effects a strip club can have on a community. Cochran has stressed that he believes The Babylon hasn't been a detriment to Austintown.
Cochran added it might be unnecessary to go to the ballot if the resolution in question is replaced with a new resolution that is acceptable to the club.
Trustees had considered rescinding the resolution in December based on a recommendation from Stratford and Gaglione.
The prosecutors were concerned that trustees had acted improperly by holding closed-door meetings to discuss the resolution with Alan Weinstein, a professor of law and urban studies at Cleveland State University.
State law allows trustees to hold closed-door meetings with their attorney. Weinstein, however, isn't registered as an attorney in Ohio.
Dockry said trustees delayed rescinding the resolution in part because of the settlement talks.
Trustees also were waiting for the prosecutors to issue an opinion on affidavits from about 20 residents who believe they were misled by those circulating the petitions.
Some residents said they were told the petitions were to place home rule on the ballot. Others said they were told the petitions were to shut down The Babylon.
The prosecutor's office has yet to issue an opinion on the affidavits. Dockry said he may write a letter to the board of elections stating that based on the affidavits, a hearing should be held on the petitions' validity.