CANFIELD Tapes to be retained while lawsuit is pending
The clerk and a trustee said the township didn't plan to destroy the records.
By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Tape recordings of Canfield Township trustees meetings will be retained at least while another lawsuit filed by one trustee against the township is pending.
Atty. Mark Finamore, representing the township, and Atty. Frank Bodor, representing Trustee Judy Bayus, signed a consent decree Wednesday morning after meeting with Timothy Welsh, a Mahoning County Common Pleas Court magistrate.
The parties agree that Carmen Heasley, township clerk, will retain all audiotaped minutes of township meetings while another lawsuit filed by Bayus against the township and several county offices is pending. That lawsuit pertains to a township road project.
Issues of Bayus' claims for attorney fees, forfeitures and a permanent injunction to stop tapes from being recorded over will be decided after the attorneys file briefs. That's expected within 14 days.
In April, Bayus filed a lawsuit naming Heasley and fellow trustees William Reese and Paul Moracco as defendants. In it, Bayus referenced a Feb. 28 resolution where Reese and Moracco voted to reuse tapes of trustees' meetings after the written minutes have been approved. Bayus voted against that resolution.
After Wednesday's meeting with the magistrate, Bayus and her attorney contended that she had prevailed with the preliminary injunction. Bodor said it's interesting that the resolution came after tape recordings of meetings pertaining to the other lawsuit had been subpoenaed by Bayus.
Heasley said she and the trustees never intended to destroy those or any existing tapes. She said the resolution dealt with tape recordings made from that time forward.
Heasley said she's aware of the lengthy procedure requiring approval from the state auditor's office and historical society before any public records may be destroyed.
She said the lawsuit caused the township to spend more money to defend itself in court in a case filed by one of its own officials.
Difference of perspective
Bayus said she thinks the lawsuit was necessary to protect the records which belong to the public.
Reese said the township didn't plan to destroy the records anyway.
"It prevents us from doing something we never intended to do in the first place," he said. "If she calls that a victory, it's a pretty hollow victory."
Bayus' lawsuit also asked for $1,000 from each defendant for the threatened violation.
Finamore said that because nothing has been destroyed, there's been no violation.
Bodor says a threat to destroy public records, which he contends the Feb. 28 resolution was, is in itself a violation.