COLUMBIANA COUNTY Private authorization questioned

The city law director said action in a closed session was probably allowed.
SALEM -- A city council candidate has questioned if council broke Ohio law by authorizing action in a closed meeting.
Justin Palmer, who is running as a Democrat for an at-large seat, asked council Tuesday who authorized a recent court appeal.
Council and the Perry Township trustees have agreed to eliminate their fire departments and form a joint fire district that city officials say will save money.
Columbiana County Common Pleas Court Judge C. Ashley Pike has temporarily blocked the move, including action to fund the district. Attorney James D. Kurek with Roetzel & amp; Andress of Akron, the city's private law firm, filed last week with the 7th District Court of Appeals.
C. Brooke Zellers, the city's law director, said he was not present at the executive session when the authorization was given. He said he did not know if authorization could be given in executive session but added, "It probably can be." He did not indicate he would look further into the matter.
Under state law, elected officials can discuss pending or imminent legal action in executive session. But the state attorney general's manual on open meeting laws states: "Public bodies may not take official action in an executive session."
Judge Pike did allow the district to appoint board members and proceed with preliminary planning.
Financial matters
Kurek also asked Judge Pike to approve $15,000 for the district so it can hire its own lawyer to make an operating plan for the district.
Fire department supporter Patty Colian asked council why Perry Township wasn't paying a share of the cost for the proposed district lawyer.
Councilman A. Frederick Vogel, council's representative to the fire board, said the city wanted the money so the district would have a solid and "legally accepted plan."
Council also indicated it would provide figures requested by fire department supporters on the cost of the city's extra legal help.
Vogel added, "It's costing both of us a fortune."
In other action, Vogel said J. Herbert Construction Co. Inc., which is located in the city's industrial park, wants to buy 4.7 more acres in the park.
Vogel said the company planned to build 25,000 square feet in flexible manufacturing space -- and possibly as much as 80,000 square feet.
Flexible office space that can be used by different companies for a variety of purposes is a new trend in manufacturing, Vogel said. He added that some city firms have needed such space.

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