MetroParks board member to propose changes to director’s authority

By Jordyn Grzelewski


Tonight’s Mill Creek MetroParks board meeting could bring further changes to park operations.

New board member Tom Shipka, who at last month’s board meeting pushed for a number of changes to board policy, will ask the board to take away the executive director’s authority to implement major decisions without public board approval.

“Essentially what I’m going to ask the board to approve is that in the future, major decisions – such as the February reorganization, as it was called – would need to be approved in a public session prior to implementation,” Shipka told The Vindicator, referring to staff cuts implemented earlier this year by MetroParks Executive Director Aaron Young. Young privately informed the board about the staff cuts, but no board action was taken and no discussion took place in public.

“I think the public and park employees were surprised and shocked by the reorganization in February, and my hope is, in the future, we won’t have such surprises,” Shipka said.

If similar decisions were to be made in the future, he said, “I believe those should be approved in advance in a public session by the board. I think that’s appropriate legally and morally, and I think it will send a clear signal ... that the changes are really necessary.”

Shipka plans to request an executive session to discuss privately with other board members his proposed policy change. The other four members of the board were made aware that he wishes to speak privately, but Shipka is unsure if he has their support on the policy.

“I hope that they will be,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a wise policy for a tax-supported organization such as Mill Creek Park to grant virtually unlimited authority to a park manager.”

In other business at tonight’s meeting, according to a tentative agenda, the board will have further discussion of a policy change approved at the July meeting: creation of committees that will advise the board on various policy matters. The new system, proposed by Shipka, will set up nine standing committees to counsel the board on finance, development, employee relations, wildlife, recreation, nature education, the environment, horticulture and volunteers.

Shipka faced some pushback from other park officials regarding his insistence that the board vote that night on the proposals.

Asked if he would this time entertain any requests to table his idea for further discussion, Shipka said it shouldn’t require further consideration.

“It’s not an issue that requires a great deal of study – either you want the board to be required to give approval to major changes, or you don’t. If you’re happy with the executive director running the park, largely unilaterally, then you’d vote against my proposal,” he said. “If you feel that the executive director should carry his [plans to the board] before he undertakes them, then you’d vote for it. It’s really quite simple.”

The meeting is at 6 p.m. at the MetroParks Farm, 7574 Columbiana-Canfield Road.

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