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Councilman-elect Moffie roils the political waters in Poland village

Friday, December 1, 2017

The often sleepy political goings-on in the village of Poland were awakened by Sam Moffie, who will be a councilman starting next month.

I’ve known Moffie for close to 20 years and the sometimes controversial figure has already shown that when he sees something questionable, he’s going to say something.

Case in point: Moffie contacted The Vindicator to correctly point out that village officials were letting Marc Cossette continue to serve as a councilman even though he moved out of Poland in mid-October and is living in Lake Milton.

And village officials had the nerve to dig in their heels even though the law is clear on this issue.

Cossette should have immediately resigned when he moved out of the village, and when he didn’t, those in village government who knew about it should have said something and demanded he leave his post.

Cossette was appointed by village council in May to fill the unexpired term of Robert Limmer, who died a month prior. The term expires at the end of this month.

Vindicator reporter Jordyn Grzelewski asked Cossette a week ago about resigning and was told that he was committed to finishing his term.

“I just wish Mr. Moffie would back off and let me do this,” he said. “I’m not doing anything illegal. I’ve got council’s blessing, and I intend to finish.”

So much for his intentions. He ended up resigning two days later.

But before that, village Solicitor Jay Macejko somehow came to the conclusion that Cossette was allowed to continue to serve.

He said: “I have no reason to believe that Marc is not in compliance with the requirements to be on council.”

That Macejko could make such a statement is inexcusable.

As Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains, who had to step in and threaten to go to court to remove Cossette from council, wrote section 3.15 of the Ohio Revised Code is clear on matters such as this.

It reads: “Each person holding an elective office of a political subdivision shall be a resident of that political subdivision.” It also states that it “applies to persons who have been either elected or appointed to an elective office.”

Before Macejko stopped talking to The Vindicator about this issue, he said the statute “talks about qualifications to become an elected member, so I don’t think we’re dealing with that statute at all.”

An interesting aspect of this matter is Macejko and Gains don’t like each other.

Macejko unsuccessfully challenged Gains for county prosecutor in 2012 in a bitter and close Democratic primary.

That race included the revelation of a derogatory text message about then-President Barack Obama allegedly exchanged between Macejko, who was Youngstown city prosecutor at the time, and an assistant city prosecutor as well as a religious discrimination lawsuit against Macejko and the city.

The issues were played out in the pages of The Vindicator.

Macejko has apparently not gotten over it.

In a Sunday email exchange between Gains and Macejko over the Cossette issue, the prosecutor wrote: “I have found nothing indicating that residency is not required if one is appointed to an elected position. In fact, a plain reading of R.C. 3.15 can only be interpreted that residency does indeed apply to one appointed to an elective office. If you have law to the contrary, please forward it. If I do not hear from you, I will assume you have found no statute or court decision in Mr. Cossette’s favor.”

Gains added: “Since you had earlier indicated that the facts as set forth in The Vindicator article may not be entirely accurate, please advise if Mr. Cossette has not moved from Poland Village. However, it is my understanding he is living in Lake Milton with his girlfriend, and that he informed Mayor Sicafuse that he had moved his residence from Poland to Lake Milton several months ago. I was also advised by the Vindicator reporter that Mr. Cossette had acknowledged directly to her that he had moved to Lake Milton. Please let me know if Mr. Cossette will resign from office on Monday, November 27, 2017, effective on that date. If I do not receive confirmation that he is resigning, I will file for a writ of quo warranto and request an expedited hearing on the matter. I would really appreciate a response no later than Monday morning. Please advise.”

Macejko fired back: “Relax, Paul. It should not come as any surprise that I do not read The Vindicator. I also have not spoken with them since we began communicating and I have no intention of doing so. Whatever was in there was some regurgitation of past articles. It is my understanding that Mr. Cossette has submitted a resignation to the mayor. However, I have neither heard that from the mayor nor seen anything myself. I expect some communication with the mayor tomorrow.”

He added: “Whatever sense of urgency or compulsion that you feel is both unnecessary and misplaced as this issue may have already resolved itself.”

Gains then thanked Macejko for the “prompt reply,” and was looking forward to the email that would come the next day.

On Monday, Macejko emailed Gains to inform him that Cossette had resigned the previous Friday.

“Given this development, your concerns should be put to rest and this concludes the business between us,” Macejko wrote.

While Cossette is gone, the question remains: why was he allowed to remain in office for more than six weeks before Moffie raised the question of his residency?

Also, it’s obvious that if Moffie had said nothing, a Lake Milton resident would have continued to improperly serve on the Poland Village Council through the end of the year.