2,500 want Mill Creek MetroParks board ousted

Staff photos / R. Michael Semple From left, Janet Bernard, Chris Flak and Mickey Drabison, along with other Mill Creek Park deer supporters, walk down the hall of the Mahoning County Courthouse on Monday to deliver petitions to Mahoning County Probate Court Judge Robert Rusu. The petition, signed by about 2,500 people, asks Rusu to remove the park commissioners.

YOUNGSTOWN — About 10 people opposed to the Mill Creek MetroParks’ deer reduction program delivered a petition with about 2,500 signatures to Judge Robert Rusu Jr. of Mahoning County Probate Court on Monday.

The petition was written as a letter asking Rusu to remove the current MetroParks commissioners. Rusu appoints commissioners to the MetroParks board. The group did not speak to the judge because he was not available. However, the judge’s administrator, Lucia Lovell, accepted the petitions.

The letter quoted Ohio law stating “Any park commissioner may be removed at the discretion of the probate judge, either upon complaint filed with such judge or upon his own motion.”

“As Mahoning County Probate Judge, we know you are able to remove the current board president, Lee Frey,” the letter states.

The group’s complaint with the MetroParks Board commissioners is that they gave “their total support, without question,” to Aaron Young, the MetroParks executive director. The organization also wants Young removed from his position.

The letter states that the “presenters of these documents are from the Save the Mill Creek Park Deer group, which formed out of concern for hunting throughout Mill Creek Park.”

The letter adds that while gathering the signatures for the petition last year, the signature gatherers “were informed of hundreds of complaints about the park, in addition to the original issue of hunting.

“Therefore we ask for the removal of Lee Frey, who we believe had the ability to address these issues but remained supportive of the director, Aaron Young.”

Shannon Hudspeth, Rusu’s assistant, said that Rusu was on the bench for a hearing Monday, but she spoke with him about the petition. He indicated that because it is a “pleading” that he must now address as judge, he cannot comment on it.

The presentation of the signatures came about an hour before a lawsuit hearing regarding the deer reduction plan took place before Magistrate Nicole Butler, who works for Judge Anthony Donfrio of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court.


The hearing centered on the lawsuit that four property owners living near Mill Creek Park filed against the MetroParks seeking to stop the deer reduction program.

Butler ruled against the preliminary injunction request of the four property owners in September that would have put a temporary stop to the deer reductions. However, other issues remain such as whether the MetroParks has the legal right to carry out such a reduction. The property owners say the MetroParks does not. The MetroParks says it does.

Both sides filed motions asking for summary judgment in their favor, meaning ruling without need of a trial.

Lawyers on both sides discussed their summary judgment filings with the magistrate as the hearing was held in chambers. The 25 opponents of the deer reduction plan that attended the hearing waited in the courtroom for their attorney, Jeff Crossman, to share the details.

He came into the courtroom to say that the ruling the magistrate will make next will involve her giving an “interpretation of the law” and she has to “apply the facts to the law.”

Crossman, who works for attorney Marc Dann, said regardless of whether the magistrate rules in favor of the MetroParks or the four property owners, “We believe either way there will be an appeal.” He said whether it has to be appealed to the appeals court of the Ohio Supreme Court, “we will press on.”

The deer reduction plan began Oct. 1 with individuals killing deer with firearms and bow hunting. There have been more than 200 deer removed, but Nick Derico, natural resources manager for the MetroParks, said recently that he and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are reviewing all of the data they have on deer reductions to correct some errors and will provide an updated number in the coming days.

He said the deer removal program is now complete for this season, “and no further removals will take place until next fall.”



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