Solid Waste District again questions candidates for director post
By Ed Runyan
The hiring committee of the Geauga Trumbull Solid Waste District had a short do-over meeting to address questions raised by The Vindicator about a closed-door meeting it had last week to narrow down candidates for its director’s job.
The committee also interviewed seven finalists for the job, which will pay $68,000 to $75,000 annually. The board has narrowed down its choices to recommend to the full district board, consisting of the six county commissioners from Geauga and Trumbull.
They will meet at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the district offices on Enterprise Drive Northwest to hire someone.
Atty. Greg O’Brien, the district’s legal adviser and a member of the hiring committee, said Wednesday he still doesn’t think the committee did anything improper when four of its seven committee members discussed job applications in private Jan. 17 without convening the meeting as a public meeting or voting to close it to the public.
After the meeting, committee members said they had narrowed down the candidates from 24 to seven.
When The Vindicator asked O’Brien in the midst of the Jan. 17 meeting whether it was a public meeting, O’Brien said it wasn’t because not enough members were present, but the newspaper’s attorney advised that it did appear to meet the requirements to be a public meeting under Ohio’s open meetings law.
Skip Claypool, a Geauga County commissioner, the interim Solid Waste District director and a hiring committee member, said the purpose of the short, closed-door meeting Wednesday was “redoing” the Jan. 17 meeting “to remove any taint that we did anything wrong.”
“As for me, I want to be completely above board,” he said.
O’Brien replied to written Vindicator questions last week about the Jan. 17 meeting by only saying the committee would meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday “to address” the newspaper’s questions.
All O’Brien and the rest of the committee did Wednesday, however, was vote to go into a closed meeting to review applications, then about 10 minutes later come back into public session to say it was going back into closed session to interview the seven finalists.
O’Brien’s letter said the purpose of the short do-over meeting was “to avoid the distraction of debating the nuances of the procedural aspects” of the open meetings law with The Vindicator.
The hiring committee’s work was already mired in controversy at the time of Jan. 17 meeting because of the changed job requirements and restarting the hiring process. That occurred after complaints from Trumbull County Commissioner Dan Polivka that the hiring process used earlier was unfair.
Polivka said he was never notified the hiring process had begun, so he missed its meetings. He also said a bachelor’s degree shouldn’t have been a prerequisite to be hired, and he criticized the makeup of the hiring committee.
The district is a government agency that uses landfill fees to educate the public and run environmental programs, such as recycling centers.
Its director’s position came open at the end of the 2016 when former director Bob Villers retired.